Sheriff Vicki Hennessy has asked the FBI to look into a Thursday incident in which a guard at County Jail No. 5 in San Bruno allegedly excessively kneed and punched a 21-year-old inmate named Deshaun Roberts.
“Inmate Roberts refused orders to be handcuffed,” reads an incident report filed on April 19. “Deputy Jayson took Roberts to the ground. Deputy Jayson attempted to handcuff Roberts. Roberts continued to resist being handcuffed. Deputy Jayson handcuffed Roberts using physical force.”
The deputy, listed as Badge No. 253, is Alex Jayson.
The alleged beating took place in “Pod 5A” at the jail, which is an educational “program pod” where Five Keys Charter School staff oversee the “Keys to Change” program. Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Nancy Crowley confirmed the incident took place in front of both “civilian and sworn staff … deputies were present, as well as people in the pod that worked there.”
Accounts of the incident filtering back to Mission Local were far less sanguine than the one on the report.
“More than one witness has confirmed seeing Deshaun Roberts assaulted for no reason by a deputy in the Five Keys pod of San Bruno,” says Roberts’ public defender, Ilona Solomon.
Solomon did not want her client to speak to the media at this time. On Monday, he still reported having a headache and concussion-like symptoms. “He is going through a lot.”
Solomon said that the Sheriff’s Department is undertaking a criminal investigation of the incident, and Roberts is cooperating. Crowley confirmed this, adding that Sheriff Vicki Hennessy has additionally requested the FBI “review the case to see if it merits a criminal investigation.”
If the feds believe it does, Hennessy will turn the investigation over to them.
“The department has been under some scrutiny for a while about independent investigations,” explained Hennessy. “I think this is one that deserves that second look.”
Solomon says she believes there is video footage of the incident: “I am attempting to secure it at this time.” Crowley said that Hennessy has not seen the video “but a member of her command staff has.”
Sheriff’s deputies in this particular jail do not wear body cameras. “We don’t have them,” confirms Hennessy. “We only have 38,” and they are mostly used at 850 Bryant St. “We keep getting them cut out of our budget.”
Roberts is awaiting sentencing after in January being convicted of a robbery in a Muni purse-snatching.
The alleged beating came only months after Hennessy was forced to initiate an investigation after some 15 inmates accused Sheriff’s Deputies of committing a range of physical assaults largely committed at County Jail No. 5, including repeatedly kicking inmates, shoving them to the ground, and having those inmates pull down their pants and lie on the ground.
Sixteen female inmates, furthermore, accused sheriff’s deputies of performing humiliating strip searches and having those inmates undress in front of the male deputies.
The District Attorney in February dropped charges against three deputies allegedly running a jail boxing ring; the Sheriff’s Department purportedly destroyed a computer containing evidence in that case during its internal investigation.
“You should expect some legislation from us in a week or so,” pledged Supervisor Shamann Walton. His legislation would not only cease the practice of the Sheriff’s Department investigating itself in alleged misconduct cases, but “would work on making sure the Sheriff does not have final say on discipline.”