Acclaimed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump has a new client on the First Coast. He is representing a pregnant woman who says she was beaten by a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office corrections officer while detained and is calling for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime.
Kirenda Welch said now-former Corrections Officer Catherine Thompson directed racial slurs toward her while she was at the Jacksonville Pretrial Detention Facility. She was arrested for driving with a suspended license.
Welch’s attorney is also calling on JSO to release the jail surveillance video to the public.
Crump is well-known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
JSO fired Thompson last week and charged her with battery and falsifying documents.
In JSO’s incident report of Welch’s arrest, the arresting officer wrote under “distinguishing marks” that Welch was “LOUD AND RUDE.” This section is typically the place on the form where officers write descriptions of tattoos, birthmarks and facial hair.
The report contains no description of Welch’s arrest.
A pregnant Welch admits she mouthed off to Thompson at the jail, but said she did not deserve to be restrained, punched multiple times and pepper-sprayed.
She claimed Officer Thompson called her ‘Kunta Kinte’ several times before she put me in shackles at the ankles and handcuffs at the wrist.
A photo Welch said she took after her release from jail appears to show a bruise by her left eye. Her official mugshot, taken before the alleged beating, does not appear to show the same bruise.
JSO said the incident happened in a changing room at the jail with no cameras, but Crump still wants JSO to release the surveillance video the agency does have.
“What Ms. Welch encountered may not have been something that was out of the blue, if you can see people on that video just watching it happen, almost as if it’s business as usual,” said Crump.
Last year, the city of Jacksonville denied inmate Paul Testa’s family’s request to release surveillance video to the public. Testa died after being tasered and strapped into a restraint chair.
JSO has released video in the past. In 2016, a sallyport video was shared when it announced it was taking action against Officer Akinyemi Borisade for hitting handcuffed inmate Mayra Martinez.