A woman who was arrested for a minor traffic violation said she was brutally assaulted by a rookie Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Corrections Officer, reports WJCT.
Kirenda Welch was on her way home from her son’s basketball game with her two sons in the car when she was stopped and cited for driving with a suspended license. Welch was arrested for the violation on June 29 and taken into custody. She denied knowing that her license was suspended at the time of her arrest.
Welch said her troubles began when the 21-year-old newly appointed Officer Catherine Thompson, began to pat her down.
“And this is where hell started,” she said.
Welch said she and the officer had words over the pat down.
“From that point on we went back and forth all night,” Welch said.
Welch, who is pregnant, complained about the jail attire she was forced to put on, saying that the pants she was given gave her an allergic reaction and that Thompson was reluctant to give her a new uniform.
“I said to her, ‘You’re one of those cops. You give cops a bad name,’” recalled Welch.
Welch’s attitude got her placed in a four-point restraint, with her hands in handcuffs, tethered to leg shackles and a chain, explained JSO Undersheriff Pat Ivey who believes that Welch said something to infuriated the officer.
“By the time I could ask her to loosen up those shackles, she punched me dead in my forehead, closed fist,” alleges Welch of Thompson behavior.
“I was in shock that was happening to me. I fell. I was back on my back. She grabbed my head with both her hands and slammed the left side of my head into the concrete wall and kept punching me.”
Thompson allegedly beat Welch several times, called her “Kunta Kinte” while punching her relentlessly.
The pregnant mother contends she was defenseless as Thompson also sprayed her face with pepper spray. She fought back and bit the officer’s hand in the melee.
“My eyes burned so bad,” she said. “I’ve never felt anything like that.”
There is definitely validity to her claim because Thompson has since been fired.
“[The corrections officers] know what’s right. They know how they’re trained. They know what’s in the confines of the law and the policy,” Ivey said. “They came forward and said that this had occurred. That was our mechanism being notified.”
“She has been terminated,” Ivey said. “If you are on probation you do not have some of the protections other employees do that are full-time and not on probation.”
Thompson had only been on the job for 14 months and was still within the JSO’s 18-month review period.
Welch has since hired famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to aide in her efforts to file a complaint with JSO. Crump contends that other deputies watched as this “immoral, illegal, abuse of excessive force” took place. Her legal team wants public records, including video, to be released immediately and that the Florida state attorney and the Department of Justice investigate the matter 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 he assaulted and battered this 36-year old, college educated, Black woman,” said Crump at a press conference on Monday with Welch and attorney Christopher O’Neal.
“I cannot believe this is still happening in 2018,” she said. “You hear about it but you don’t believe it’s going to happen.”
Thompson has since been arrested for battery and official misconduct. Thompson was also reportedly dishonest in her reporting of the incident which resulted in the misconduct charge, a third-degree felony.