Three Sheriff’s Office Employees Released After Hosting Prisoner Wrestling Matches

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LANCASTER A Fairfield County sheriff’s deputy was fired and two corrections officers resigned after an incident in late June in which they wrestled with inmates on the second shift, Sheriff Alex Lape said Thursday.

He said corrections officer Kyle Archibald, Dep. Shawn Pettit and corrections officer Landon Talbott organized competitions with three inmates. There were no injuries and Lape said one of the inmates said the matches were “purely by mutual consent” and that the inmates and staff shook hands and hugged after the matches.

Video:Sheriff’s employees wrestle with inmates in jail

Lape said corrections officer Kayla Doss was given an unpaid 10-day suspension as part of the incident for failing to report it in a timely manner.

‘In 30 years I thought I had seen just about everything’

“We didn’t become aware of it for five days,” Lape said. “One of the other employees waited five days and then went to her supervisor and reported it. Once the supervision became known, we placed the three on administrative leave.

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“In 30 years I thought I’d seen just about everything. I saw that video and I told you to joke. I don’t know if they (employees) took the bait of the prisoners’ challenge. I know I no. I couldn’t really get a direct answer to that.”

Lape said two of the employees had previously taken disciplinary action against them. But he wasn’t sure about the details and which ones yet.

Sheriff calls actions ‘ridiculous’ and ‘unacceptable’

The matches took place in the confinement room of the prison. Lape said the match was a one-off event to the best of his knowledge. He said the 10-minute incident was embarrassing.

“This is ridiculous,” Lape said. “It’s unacceptable behavior and it won’t be tolerated. The people of the county have chosen me to run their prison and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. I’m sure they wouldn’t condone this kind of thing. It damages the reputation of all the sheriff’s men and women who do this job for the right reasons.”

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Lape said he contacted the Kyle Witt County Attorney’s office to investigate the incident when he learned of it. That agency interviewed the three employees and the three inmates involved and declined to initiate criminal charges. Lape said his office then began a lengthy internal investigation and organized disciplinary hearings with the three involved in the wrestling matches.

In the interviews with detainees, one of them said that he could not remember anything, while another completely denied involvement. When the investigator pointed out to the inmate who denied it that the wrestling was caught on video, he continued to deny it.

One of the inmates admitted to struggling and told the investigator that he had won his match against the prosecutor. However, he told the detective that he didn’t want any of the prison staff to get in trouble.

Wrestling match a violation of various rules of conduct

Archibald and Pettit resigned from their hearings and Talbott was fired from his hearing. Lape said Talbott has filed a complaint that will soon go to arbitration. Lape said Talbott’s termination will either be upheld or reinstated, subject to the arbitrator’s ruling.

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He said the wrestling match was a violation of several rules of conduct.

“It’s pretty clear that you can see how that could have gone bad in 100 different ways,” Lape said. “Like I said, it’s unacceptable behavior and it won’t be tolerated.”

Lape said some employees who have just completed training will fill the positions of the three employees who have left. He said there will probably be some overtime involved as well.

He also said that Doss will not serve her suspension on 10 consecutive days.

“The sergeant will plan which days of which week and how much that employee will leave as part of that discipline,” Lape said.

[email protected]

740-681-4340

Twitter: @JeffDBarron

A screenshot from a video in the Fairfield County Jail of an officer wrestling with an inmate.

This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: Prisoner wrestling matches lead to eviction of 3 sheriff employees

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