BELTON — Videos released to the Telegram show Bell County Jail inmate Jvareus Aquer Pratt, a Temple resident, being brutally assaulted by two jailers.
A set of three videos and an arrest affidavit tell the tale of what reportedly was done to Pratt on March 14 by Kelvin Miller, 34, and Terrance Jamal Gardner, 28 — both fired in mid-March after investigations by the Texas Rangers and the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
The sheriff’s department sought to withhold the videos after the Temple Daily Telegram filed an open records request, but the Telegram’s request was supported by a ruling from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Pratt, 23, told Texas Ranger Adam Russell he took methamphetamine in jail and thought deputies were going to let other inmates gang rape him, so he barricaded himself in his cell. Pratt admitted he was “paranoid and unruly.”
In the first video, two jailers found Pratt’s room inaccessible. One minute later, there were several jailers at the door as they tried to get the door open. The hinges were removed, as were pieces of clothing and bedding used to stop someone from seeing inside the cell. The jailers appeared to consult each other about four minutes into the video. Finally, the door was opened with a lot of tugging and pulling by deputies, and the jailers tried to remove Pratt from the cell as he held onto the door frame. He was dragged out into the hallway by several jailers, and then ran down the hall before being tased.
The second video began with the camera view of a separate area with four benches and several inmates inside the area that is open to the hallways. That view continued for almost nine minutes before the camera moved to a partial view of a hallway. Video showed Pratt was on the floor with more than seven jailers around or on him.
Then the camera panned back to the separation area for less than a minute before going back to the hallway.
The view of the area was limited for about four minutes, and little could be seen of what happened with Pratt.
An affidavit fills in what reportedly happened to Pratt in the hallway.
Pratt said he ran down the corridor and stiff-armed one jailer, but he didn’t hit anyone, an arrest affidavit said. He claimed he was tased, handcuffed and attacked by deputies.
Video three went to the padded cell to which Pratt was moved.
Deputies pulled a handcuffed but still struggling Pratt into the room and he was wrestled to the floor with jailers on top of him and around him. Pratt struggled as two jailers punched him in the head and neck, as well as other areas of his body. He was kicked in the head by one jailer, and a jailer appeared to sit on Pratt’s head or neck, according to the video.
About two minutes after the door opened to put Pratt into the padded cell, the jailers all exited and the door was shut. Pratt, shirtless and wearing only shorts, paced back and forth in the room and, at one point, maneuvered his handcuffs from behind his back to the front. Periodically, he appeared to push or throw himself against the door until the video ended.
The video showed Miller and Gardner punching Pratt with closed fists on his head and torso. They reportedly kicked him in the head, neck and chest while he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, the Texas Rangers report said.
Miller and Gardner were fired in mid-March by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
It took the family’s complaints and intervention to get an internal investigation, which led to the Texas Rangers being contacted to conduct the investigation.
Russell, the investigating Texas Ranger, concluded Miller and Gardner assaulted Pratt on purpose and injured him while he was “restrained and defenseless,” and violated his civil rights while he was in custody.
The intent was to take off Pratt’s handcuffs and leave the new cell, but some of the deputies escalated the situation, Sgt. Justin Kelly told Russell.
The two jailers were arrested and charged. They were released from the Bell County Jail after they each posted $10,000 bond.
In additional to a charge of official oppression, each former jailer was charged with assault causing bodily injury. Both charges are Class A misdemeanors.
Miller and Gardner will be defended by defense attorney James Stapler, Assistant County Attorney Susan Parker said. Stapler received discovery and is reviewing it, he confirmed Tuesday, but he had no comment by press time Friday.
A Dallas attorney, James Roberts, filed a civil rights lawsuit against Miller and Gardner on behalf of Pratt.
The former jailers filed a counter claim against Pratt in their response to the lawsuit, Roberts said.
The jail’s side
A report said Pratt took methamphetamine and couldn’t be checked on because he covered his cell window with clothes and bedding and then barricaded himself in the cell. The deputies tried to move him to a padded cell that had cameras so he could be videotaped, said Maj. T.J. Cruz, a sheriff’s department spokesman.
Pratt resisted and escaped from deputies, but was caught, the video showed.
They used a Taser to subdue him and his hands were handcuffed behind his back. Pratt eventually was left alone in the cell and the door was locked. He was able to move his cuffed hands from behind him to in front of him. About 45 minutes later his handcuffs were removed, Cruz said.
Pratt and Miller said they had injuries, but no pictures were taken and no report was written.
Cruz said he doesn’t know how Pratt accessed drugs in jail.
Bell County did not investigate the drug claim and it wasn’t verified by anyone he was high on drugs, Cruz said. Deputies assumed he was on drugs because of the way he acted and his demeanor.
Pratt was taken to the infirmary, but Cruz couldn’t give the results of his visit because of medical privacy laws.
Neither Cruz nor Bell County Sheriff’s Department know how any drugs possibly got into Pratt’s possession.
“No excuses. It got in,” Cruz said.