ATLANTA — A man arrested on a misdemeanor “disorderly conduct” charge, and booked into the Clayton County jail, was sent to a hospital ICU hours later with life-altering brain damage and severe wounds from violent beatings that he says were inflicted at the jail, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Atlanta federal court.
The man describes, in his lawsuit, a nightmare at the jail.
He blames now-suspended Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, and nine of his deputies. He said they are responsible for beating him nearly to death.
It is the third civil lawsuit against Hill involving similar accusations, alleging that he ordered deputies to put inmates into a restraint chair and beat them.
Hill is also facing criminal, “excessive force” charges related to the restraint chair, and he was suspended from office earlier this year after he was indicted.
“I was almost killed,” said Gabriel Arries on Tuesday.
Arries, 33, was at Atlanta’s airport on Feb. 5, 2021, on his way to his parent's home in Virginia.
Arries is bipolar, he needed his medicine, he began to lose control and was causing a scene.
Atlanta police intervened and arrested Arries, charging him with a misdemeanor—disorderly conduct—and took him to the Clayton County jail.
Arries describes in his federal lawsuit, filed Monday against Hill and his deputies, that deputies knew he needed medication, refused to let him have the medication, but instead immediately restrained him in a chair, violently beat him over several hours, and tased him.
“They knew that he was experiencing a mental health episode,” the lawsuit states, but “defendants left him for dead without adequate medical care to address his brain injury they inflicted... Gabriel has suffered life-altering brain damage.”
He said his recovery, after eight weeks in the hospital, including five weeks in a coma, has been painful and slow.
“There has to be some accountability,” Arries said.
His attorney, Alwyn Fredericks, said a jail employee who was working there that day has come forward as a witness.
And Fredericks believes there is a jail security cam video of the beatings.
Gabriel Arries’ parents said they are fighting, now, for him and for others like him.
“Individuals who are having a mental health crisis do not deserve to be beaten within an inch of their life,” said his mother, Francie Cate-Arries.
She said he has had to re-learn to walk, bathe, brush his teeth, change his clothes, and the beatings caused him to lose his sight in his left eye. Surgery helped him regain partial vision.
“I always thought that this was a country that was based on the rule of law,” said his father, Jonathan Arries. “How people who can do this can just walk away... I really don’t understand.”
“We felt like it was important,” Fredericks said, “to hold them accountable, and that’s what we intend to do.”
“I think it’s going to happen to others,” Arries said, “and they’re not going to be as lucky as I am.”
Arries said he remembers nothing of that day and has also lost his memory of his life before then.
Attorney Fredericks said that when Arries was in intensive care at Atlanta Medical Center, no one knew what had happened to him at the jail; he was in a coma for most of that time.
Fredericks investigated jail intake records, and also jail medical records, and determined that Arries told a nurse right after he was booked that he is bipolar and needed his medicine, but that Arries never received the medicine.
The lawsuit says the nurse and two of the deputies, “observed Gabriel’s thoughts to be disorganized and that he was unaware he was in the State of Georgia. In that state of mind, Gabriel was allegedly combative and shouting racial epithets to the Sheriff’s deputies.”
The lawsuit says deputies then “repeatedly, maliciously, and violently struck Gabriel ... then unreasonably restrained Gabriel in a restraint chair ... Approximately four hours later, Gabriel was taken (out of) the restraint chair ... deputies again repeatedly maliciously, and violently struck Gabriel and unreasonably forced him back into the restraint chair.”
The lawsuit says Arries was placed in a cell with a violent inmate, there was some sort of altercation between them, and a deputy tased Arries.
Hours later, the lawsuit says jail personnel found Arries unresponsive and making involuntary movements, and was taken to Atlanta Medical Center.
According to the lawsuit, Hill created “a culture” at the jail, in which deputies “violating citizens’ civil rights is not only tolerated but also encouraged,” and that Hill had a policy of “unreasonably placing detainees in the restraint chair and permitting the unreasonable and malicious, excessive use of force by his deputies.”
“The Sheriffs (deputies) of Clayton County having their way with a young man because they simply didn’t like what was coming out of his mouth is a tremendous Civil Rights violation,” Fredericks said.
Victor Hill’s attorney, Jack Hancock, said Tuesday he does not comment on pending lawsuits against Hill.
Arries is asking for a trial, and for monetary damages as determined by the jury.
Arries’ parents said he had been living independently, working and supporting himself, in Los Angeles. But they said he lost his job in the pandemic, lost his health insurance coverage, and could no longer afford his medicine. That’s why he was in Atlanta, he was changing planes on his way to Virginia--to get a refill of his medicine, and stay with his parents until he could find work, again.