Sheriff: Missing Swink video isolated case

Office says new oversight procedures were added after files disappeared in pepper-spray incident.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office says it reviewed a year’s worth of records and added new oversight procedures after a video of a Montgomery County corrections officer pepper-spraying a restrained inmate disappeared from county records.

The incident has led to accusations of theft and cover-up that are part of a lawsuit and ongoing federal investigation.

Records obtained by the I-Team show many more videos of use of force at the Montgomery County jail disappeared than previously reported. It’s unclear how many videos are missing or what happened to them, but sheriff’s office officials say only unofficial copies are missing and that official copies of most videos are not missing.

Those videos are maintained on a hard drive that is not currently accessible because of the federal investigation, according to the sheriff’s office.

RELATED: Missing paperwork raises questions about pepper spray probe

One of the missing videos ended up in the hands of a local attorney. That video, widely seen on news websites, shows then-Sgt. Judith Sealey using pepper spray on inmate Amber Swink in November 2015 while Swink was strapped into a restraint chair. In an interview last week, Chief Deputy Rob Streck said his staff reviewed all records from 2015 after the video turned up missing.

That review examined electronic incident reports — including the Swink case — and compared them to official filings. It found fewer than two dozen instances out of thousands of filings in 2015 in which official records were absent, according to Streck. None of those rose to the level of suspicion of the Swink case, he said, characterizing them as innocent mistakes by staff.

“The rate of error for the number of reports we have, I’d say is in the 1 percent range,” added investigator David Parin, who did the review. “Any rate of error is something we are trying to avoid.”

Streck said the sheriff’s office recently hired an administrative sergeant to routinely audit records, “so the ‘he said/she said’ type thing can’t happen.”

JUSTICE IN THE JAILHOUSE: Lawsuits, accusations plague county jails in the region

Emails obtained by the I-Team say nearly a year’s worth of videos of use of force by corrections officers at the Montgomery County jail disappeared from jail computers shortly after the Swink incident.

These were not official records required to be kept under agency policy, Parin said, so were not part of his review. But the emails show they were used by jail staff to fulfill requests for videos under public record law.

The missing video files were kept in an internal computer drive used to catalog uses of force. When an officer files a report noting a use of force — such as pepper-spraying an inmate — he or she fills out a form and then copies all videos of the incident to the drive from jail cameras.

Streck said the drive was meant for temporary storage, and policy requires officers to make a hard copy disk of videos of each incident, which is then kept with the use of force report in the sheriff’s office records. In Sealey’s case, neither the use of force report nor the disk can be found.

The I-Team has requested video from other incidents in 2015 under public records law and has received them.

To date the only video evidence of the use of force by Sealey — who was later promoted to captain — surfaced in September 2016 when Swink sued the jail and her attorney posted the video online without saying how he got it.

RELATED: Video shows pepper-spray incident that led to lawsuit

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer has said someone stole the video, noting the disappearance of videos from the temporary drive.

He called for a review after he said the November records had disappeared completely.

“To me, that says somebody deleted it and tampered with it,” he said at the time.

Streck said last week that it appeared some — but not all — of the videos prior to November were missing as well.

Swink’s lawsuit alleges the Sealey video was deleted as part of a cover-up.

Emails obtained by the I-Team and verified by multiple people show corrections officers expressing concern that use of force videos prior to mid-December 2015 couldn’t be found.

A Dec. 18, 2015, email from sheriff’s office Sgt. John Eversole to sheriff’s office information technology employee James Fisher asks for help finding the files.

“These files contain evidence which is subject to public records request. It is important to try to recover them,” Eversole wrote. “Unknown what happened. Doubtful they were just deleted due to the size of the files.”

The I-Team requested original copies of the emails from the sheriff’s office. The county prosecutor denied the request claiming they are “confidential law enforcement investigative records.”

Fisher, who now works for the city of Fairborn’s police department, said in an interview the staff never determined what happened to the files.

“I just know from my perspective as a technician, there were some files missing, we got called in trying to recover the files and couldn’t recover the files,” he said. “We took steps to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”


15 lawsuits allege mistreatment of inmates at area jails

Officer who sheriff tried to charge for jail assault claims unfairness (VIDEO)

Jail cameras capture some drama, little detail (VIDEO)

Lawsuits allege deadly neglect of inmates in Butler, Warren counties

Officers spit on, attacked in jails bursting with mentally ill (VIDEO)

More oversight sought for area jails

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

2 Missouri men found with 2 kilos of fentanyl, police say
2 Missouri men found with 2 kilos of fentanyl, police say

Two men from Missouri were arrested on federal drug charges Thursday after authorities caught them with two kilograms of fentanyl, enough for 1.5 million doses of the painkiller, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. >> Read more trending news  Two men, Ruben Lopez, 27, and Jonathen Andrew Aguilar, 31, both of St. Charles, were...
‘Cat Grandpa’ snuggles with felines at pet shelter
‘Cat Grandpa’ snuggles with felines at pet shelter

A 75-year-old Wisconsin man is giving new meaning to catnaps. >> Read more trending news  Terry Lauerman, of De Pere, has been volunteering at Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary in Green Bay for the last six months, and photographs of him fast asleep while several of the shelter’s cats snuggle up to him on couches have gone viral, the Green...
WPAFB Friday Weather: Afternoon storms to end the work-week
WPAFB Friday Weather: Afternoon storms to end the work-week

WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE— Sunshine will start the day with increasing clouds in the afternoon. It will remain warm and muggy. Scattered showers and storms will develop late in the afternoon and into the evening. A few storms could become severe with damaging wind gusts possible. Highs will be in the middle 80s before the storms move...
Sweet story: Iowa man, 94, passes out Hershey's chocolate bars to residents 
Sweet story: Iowa man, 94, passes out Hershey's chocolate bars to residents 

A 94-year-old Iowa native has been sweet to residents in his small town for more than 15 years. Bob Williams is known as the “Candy Bar Man” in Long Grove, and his kindness has been a sweet story to many residents. >> Read more trending news  Williams, who taught psychology in nearby Davenport for 39 years, stocks his refrigerator...
Endangered Missing Adult Alert canceled for north central Ohio man, 75
Endangered Missing Adult Alert canceled for north central Ohio man, 75

UPDATE @ 12:25 a.m. (Sept. 21): The alert has been canceled, according to authorities. The alert was issued just before 11 p.m. Thursday. An Endangered Missing Adult Alert has been issued for a 75-year-old Washington Courthouse man who was last seen leaving his home Thursday afternoon.  John Doughty left his residence on Lotz Drive about 3 p.m...
More Stories