NOT PICTURED ABOVE. White Media Protects "the Image" of White Cop. What Will White Prosecutors Do? From [HERE] and [HERE] National civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Monday morning that the beating of a shackled pregnant Black woman in the Duval County jail should be investigated as a hate crime because racial slurs were hurled at the woman by the since-fired corrections officer.
Crump's law firm is representing Kirenda Welch, who was arrested June 29 on a suspended license charge after she made an illegal turn.
Welch said she never imagined when she was taken downtown that she would "be the victim of police brutality."
She said things escalated after she arrived at the jail, where investigators said she exchanged insults with Officer Catherine Thompson, who then beat Welch after she was placed in four-point restraints.
“This Officer Thompson called me Kunta Kinte several times before she put me in shackles at the ankles and handcuffs at the wrists. I complied with every one of her requests. I complied with her requests to shackle me only for her to punch me in the face and stomach over a dozen times,” Welch said. “I was just in disbelief.”
She said other officers watched as she was hit and pepper-sprayed while defenseless on the ground.
“I'm not only here today for myself and for my family, but I'm here just to prevent this from happening to anybody else, because it could be you or your family member,” Welch said at a news conference Monday with Crump, who has represented families in several high-profile cases, including the Stephon Clark police shooting in Sacramento and the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Crump called the “savage beating” an example of “illegal abuse of excessive force.” He called on the State Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
“Before and during this outrageous attack on this citizen, there were racial slurs being used and hurled at her indicating what was the mentality of this officer as she assaulted and battered this 36-year-old, college-educated black woman,” Crump said. “They were of a nature that could not be misconstrued as anything but racist, (and) those matters need to be charged appropriately.”
Ivey said a woman was arrested Friday on a charge of driving without a valid license. The woman, Kirenda Welch, encountered Thompson while being searched at the jail and the two exchanged insults, Ivey said.
Welch, who told News4Jax she's five weeks pregnant, said the episode began when she took issue with the itchy uniform she was given, according to her complaint.
“The pants immediately started to itch me. Something was wrong with the pants. I told her, 'These are old. They’re dirty, and they stink and I’m itching. I can’t put on the pants. I left the shirt on. Can you please give me another pair of pants?'" Welch said.
She said her criticism was met with racial slurs.
"She pretty much went off and started calling me Kunta Kinte," said Welch, referring to the slave character from the novel and TV miniseries "Roots."
At some point, Ivey said, Welch was placed in four-point restraints, meaning she was handcuffed and her legs were shackled, and her hands and legs were connected by a chain. She said things escalated when she complained that the shackles were too tight.
According to Ivey, Thompson hit Welch in the face and knocked her to the floor. He said she repeatedly attacked Welch while she was on the ground. At one point during the struggle, Welch said, she fought back. She was later maced.
"She punched me dead in my forehead, right in the middle. Boom. I could not believe it," Welch said. "I can't believe she's doing this. I'm shackled up. I'm on my back ... She used both hands and banged my head into the concrete wall. I was like, 'Oh my God. This is it. It's happening.'"
Ivey said Thompson then wrote a report about the incident that was "not honest."
Welch also gave News4Jax the details of the traffic stop Friday that led to her being taken to the Duval County jail.
Welch said she and her two children were on the way back from a youth basketball game Friday evening. She said she was driving a Dodge Charger on Firestone Road when her toddler got out of his safety seat.
“I tried to hurry and pull over, so I made an illegal U-turn. I was trying to get him settled," she said.
That’s when a police officer got behind her and initiated a traffic stop.
Welch said she then got out of her car to tend to her son in the back seat while the officer was parked behind her.
“He jumped out with a gun drawn. So I’m like, 'Oh my God. Please don’t shoot. I was, like, 'I don’t want to die.' I told my son to put his hands up," Welch said. “The officer later told me that he didn’t know what I was going to do to him. That’s why he had his gun drawn.”
The officer checked her license and learned it was suspended.
“I ran through a toll I didn’t know about. They sent it to my old address. I never got it. I didn’t pay it so they suspended my license," Welch said. "So, I’m riding around all this time and they said a judge signed off on it May 30.”
She was then placed under arrest and taken to the Duval County jail, where investigators said she was beaten by the now-former corrections officer.
News4Jax requested the narrative report from the officer who arrested Welch.
When asked whether officers always arrest someone driving on a suspended license, JSO said a capias warrant for Welch's arrest had been issued in May because she was driving with a suspended license.
A spokesperson for the State Attorney's Office sent News4Jax the following statement:
“This case is being handled by our Human Rights Division, which reviews allegations of excessive force and hate-motivated crimes. Given that this is now a pending matter, we will have no further comment.”
Thompson was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with misdemeanor battery and official misconduct, which is a felony. She was still in her probationary period with the Sheriff's Office and was fired immediately.
Crump said Thompson's termination from JSO and the criminal charges are a “first step” and that he would be filing open records lawsuit for all records, documents and surveillance video to be released in the incident.
“Sunshine is a good disinfectant. A picture is worth 1,000 words and certainly video is worth a million. If we see with our own eyes what took place, then we will know what Ms. Welch encountered may not have been something that was out of the blue if you can see people on that video just watching it happen, almost as if it's business as usual,” Crump said.
Jacksonville attorney Randy Reep said gaining access to the surveillance videos could take some time.
"What will slow it down is that there in an ongoing investigation," Reep said. "But it will be released eventually."
Crump wants the Justice Department to investigate the training practices and policies of the Sheriff's Office because Thompson knew where to take Welch to be out of sight of surveillance cameras, which he said had to be taught to her.
“It's about proper training and prevention. It's about making sure that you're not reactive but proactive,” Crump said. “Make this a teachable moment.” [don't hold your breath counsel]
According to Thompson's arrest warrant, police interviewed Welch and three other corrections officers. The warrant makes no mention of surveillance video, but notes that Welch and Thompson exchanged "abusive comments."