CAROLINA PUBLIC PRESS: Former guard claims his report was altered
Murphy – A former jail guard in Cherokee County says someone altered his incident report regarding a scrap between a jail inmate and guards in May 2018.
Although altered, the basics of the incident report hold true, former guard Joshua Gunter told Carolina Public Press this week. But he said someone has changed details and added language he would not have used.
The report in question describes a May 2 altercation between two former guards and federal inmate George Victor Stokes, who was temporarily housed at the Cherokee County Detention Center in Murphy. In December, a grand jury indicted one former officer, Wesley Killian, on two assault-related misdemeanor counts for what the indictment described as kicking Stokes in the face.
Several hours after the incident, both guards filed incident reports. The reports were among those the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office refused to release to Carolina Public Press until late last month.
The mid-December records release was accompanied by a letter from County Attorney Darryl Brown, who wrote the incident reports were “unedited and unredacted.”
However, after reviewing the report released by the sheriff, former guard Joshua Gunter said his narrative appears to have been modified, compared to what he remembers writing about the events that day.
The incident report details a situation that escalated after Stokes demanded access to a television remote control. When detention officers went to confront Stokes, he threatened to throw them over the second-story railing. One guard, Gunter, tried to talk Stokes down.
The report narrative released last month says Gunter used “soft hand technique” when he asked Stokes to stop resisting — a term Gunter said was new to him.
“I heard someone telling me I should use it (the term “soft hands technique”), but I didn’t include that in my report because I didn’t know what it means,” Gunter said this week.
He eventually drew his stun gun and fired at Stokes, but one prong missed and Stokes started struggling with officers.
Gunter has told CPP that he then clubbed Stokes in the face with the butt of the stun gun, which knocked Stokes to the ground. He said he remembers including that detail in the incident report, but he said it’s been changed.
“I was honest,” Gunter said. “I put in the incident report that I clubbed him with my Taser in booking.”
Instead, Gunter’s narrative says, “At this time I had to go hands on with Inmate Stokes again.”
Gunter and Killian were placed on leave, and ultimately fired nine days after the incident, according to county records.
Palmer told the Cherokee Scout on Monday that “We don’t lie on reports.”