By John L. Ross, Staff Writer
A suspected DUI driver was arrested by the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday night — but he wasn’t booked into the Whitley County Detention Center until 10 a.m. Wednesday.
According to Chief Deputy K.Y. Fuson, deputies received a call about unauthorized use of a motor vehicle Tuesday evening.
He said the suspect allegedly took the vehicle without the owner’s permission, and was possibly intoxicated.
Fuson explained that once the man was found, deputies investigated, then arrested the suspect — 42-year-old Nathan Rose, of Corbin.
“This guy was drunk, raising Cain, and resisting arrest — he even spit on (Deputy) John (Hill),” Fuson said. “There was a bit of a struggle with him.”
He said after the arrest, deputies took Rose to Baptist Health Corbin first.
“He refused the x-ray scan, and refused to get treatment,” Fuson said. “They released him from the hospital, saying he refused treatment.”
Then deputies brought him to the detention center.
“The jail would not accept him,” Fuson said. “He was acting out and violent — of course — he was being arrested by the police.”
That’s when deputies contacted Fuson.
“I didn’t know what to do at that time,” he said.
Fuson said he contacted Judge Cathy Prewitt at 1 a.m. seeking assistance with the matter, and he said she, too, was not sure what to do.
“The judge did say the court cannot release a violent suspect,” Fuson said.
But at 11:30 p.m., Fuson said Rose remained intoxicated.
“We were told (the jail) would not take him,” he said. “He’s drunk and violent — what do we do with them?”
He said Comprehensive Care, which treats substance abuse issues, was not the appropriate place to take Rose to.
“He wasn’t crazy — just a mean drunk,” Fuson said.
So deputies were forced to sit with Rose — for the remainder of the night. Rose appeared before Judge Fred White Wednesday, and Fuson said White called the jail.
He added that White informed jail staff that Rose was sober and able to be incarcerated. Rose remains jailed for several charges, and is under a $15,000 cash bond.
But when it comes to arrested and jailing “drunk or high” offenders, Fuson said the department’s hands are tied on the matter.
“We’ve got to protect society — but then we are stuck with (these offenders),” Fuson said.
Fuson said the sheriff’s office held Rose until his court appearance Wednesday.
“I swore an oath to protect the public,” Fuson said. “But when suspects are refused and we get stuck babysitting them all night — it’s not right when we have a jail right there.”
Jailer Ken Mobley agreed that Rose was “out of control.”
“When he was brought in, he was really irate,” Mobley said. “He was screaming and hollering and going crazy.”
He said jail staff told deputies to take the suspect to the hospital to “get him medically cleared.”
“The hospital did not even treat him, from what I was told,” Mobley said, adding that the suspect’s behavior was all captured on video at the detention center.
Mobley also said the suspect’s reactions seemed more drug-related than alcohol-related. “He was high,” he said, reiterating that Rose was “pretty irate.”
Mobley explained it was standard jail policy to require extremely intoxicated suspects be medically cleared prior to their acceptance in the jail. “This is for every agency, not just the sheriff’s department,”
Mobley said. “You have to be careful in this day and time with these drugs.”
Fuson said this was not the first time a suspect had been refused by the jail staff. He explained that when murder suspect Samuel Plotnick was arrested, he, too, was initially refused admission to the jail. Plotnick was arrested in December for first-degree assault charges, which were upgraded to murder in January after the victim in that case died.
The night of Plotnick’s arrest, law enforcement had a “tough” struggle getting him arrested — Plotnick allegedly kicked and spat at deputies arresting him.
Corbin Police Major Rob Jones said they have had instances where prisoners were refused by the detention center.
“This has happened to us before,” Jones said.
He explained officers follow a general protocol when arresting violent offenders. “We always take (those types of suspects) to the hospital, where they are screened and then released,” Jones said, adding that sometimes, even then, the jail has refused to take in suspects they consider violent.
“This has been happening for a long time — sometimes it’s a struggle to get one in there,” Jones said. “And some of it’s silly stuff — like (abnormal) blood pressure.”
But he said that lately, the problem has “eased up.”
That isn’t the only problem with the jail experienced by the Corbin Police Department, according to Jones.
When prisoner Shannon Wynn escaped from the Detention Center on April 1, Jones said they were never contacted and didn’t learn of the escape until reading it in the newspaper. “We’ve arrested Wynn a bunch of times — we know him,” Jones said. “But we didn’t get told — and we would have been more than happy to help.”
Corbin Police Captain Coy Wilson, a detention center employee from 2005-2006, said there are ways to handle difficult prisoners at Whitley County Detention Center.
“They have what’s called a ‘restraint chair,’” Wilson said. “It locks their legs and arms in place.”
Jones added that it keeps prisoners from harming themselves or others around them.
“We used it occasionally,” Wilson said, adding that he knew the police department had problems in the past, although he himself has never had a refusal.
Wilson also said the jail has single-occupant cells, designed so prisoners do not injure themselves if they are or become violent or difficult.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said his department has had that issue as well. “There have been some instances in the past when the jail has refused one because they were too drunk or high,” Bird said. “But now the officers take them to get medically cleared before they are brought from the jail.”
He added it had been a while since the jail refused one of their arrested suspects. “This hasn’t happened for quite some time,” Bird said. “I think we worked it out after a few meetings with (Jailer Ken Mobley).”
He explained the department’s agreement with the jail concerning an extremely drunk or high suspect. “The rule is if they are incoherent to the point they can’t answer questions, or can’t stand on their own, then, yes, that was the agreement we had (made) some time ago with the jailer,” Bird said. “Sometimes we will call EMS to evaluate them beforehand.
“Now, if they are violent, we don’t take them to the hospital,” Bird added. “Because this could be a safety concern for hospital staff, and we certainly don’t want to put them in harm’s way.”
He also added that “every situation can be different.”
Mobley confirmed that the policy requires potential inmates who are suspected of being “high or drunk” to be asked simple medical questions, and if a suspect is unable or unwilling to answer, they are refused until receiving medical clearance. He added the jail has a nurse on staff who can assist in determining a potential inmate can be placed in the detention center. He said the nurse was on hand during the sheriff’s department’s last drug roundup April 1.