Police Chief Backs Officer After Video Shows Him Body-Slamming Black Arrestee Into Concrete Floor, Leaving Him with ‘Severe and Life-altering Injuries’

The attorneys for Christopher Shaw, a Black man in Texas who was left with permanent injuries from the chest down following an arrest, have issued a statement after the video was released this week.

Footage obtained by Atlanta Black Star shows Beaumont police Officer James Gillen bringing Shaw into the Jefferson County Correctional Facility. Shaw, who is sporting a black tank top, was arrested for public intoxication. 

In the video, the officer appears to choke the 42-year-old before flipping and slamming Shaw on the concrete while he is handcuffed. His attorneys said the incident left him with a broken neck and paralyzed him “for the rest of his life.”

Christopher Shaw in a wheelchair surrounded by his legal team and representative for the Beaumont Texas Chapter of the NAACP and 100 Black Men of Greater Beaumont on June 29, 2023. (Photo: Twitter/Mello Styles)

The release of surveillance footage comes after Shaw pleaded guilty to assaulting a peace officer during the summer and received probation, KFDM reported.

“Mr. Shaw was threatened with 20+ years behind bars despite being paralyzed by Beaumont Police Officer James Thomas Gillen,” his attorneys said in a statement on Wednesday. “Considering his current condition, Mr. Shaw felt that it was in his best interest to receive a deferred prosecution sentence, which will eventually result in all charges being dismissed completely.”

Last July, Shaw — who is represented by civil rights attorneys Chance Lynch, Harry Daniels, and Ben Crump — filed a lawsuit against the officer, the city of Beaumont, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and CorrHealth, the jail’s medical contractor.

Before Gillen took Shaw into custody on June 12, 2021, he was transported to a local hospital “due to signs of impairment,” the filing alleges. After being discharged, he was sent to jail. At one point, while other officers “had complete control” over Shaw, Gillen “body slammed” him, causing him “to land on his head.”

“As such, Mr. Shaw lacked the ability to brace for impact as his head was slammed into a concrete floor with the full body weight of Defendant Gillen landing on top of him,” the lawsuit said. “Immediately upon impact, Mr. Shaw lost consciousness. After Defendant Gillen stood up, Mr. Shaw laid motionless on the floor with blood pouring from his head due to a laceration on his head from the impact with the concrete floor.”

First responders were called to take him back to the hospital for the potential injury to his spinal cord. However, after being evaluated, he was transferred back to the facility in a wheelchair, and he had a “noticeable slouch.”

Unable to control his body, officers had to dress him in the inmate uniform before he was placed on a chair in a cell, according to the lawsuit. While in there, he fell on the floor and called out to jail and medical staff for help but was allegedly ignored. 

According to the lawsuit, due to his condition, he defecated and urinated on himself and had to lay in it for hours. He began to call for help again, but the jail and medical staff waited before they called EMS.

When EMS got to the scene, they found that his body was swollen and told jail officials that he should’ve been brought in for treatment immediately, the complaint said. It was determined that he suffered spinal fractures and had to undergo multiple surgeries. He is now in a wheelchair. 

“Let us be clear. We firmly believe that our client did not make any unlawful contact with the officer. What the video makes absolutely clear, however, is that Officer Gillen not only assaulted Christopher Shaw while he was handcuffed and in custody,” the attorneys added. “Officer Gillen should be prosecuted immediately and everyone involved should be held liable for the severe and life-altering injuries Christopher Shaw sustained.”

Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary stated in the past about the case: “There’s about an hour of video, including our body cam footage of the arrest of Christopher Shaw for Public Intoxication. The footage includes his actions at the hospital where he was taken following his arrest for Public Intoxication. It shows his resisting and combative. That continued at the jail. He kicked my officer. I support my officer and my officers’ actions.”

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