Inmate hospitalized after bloody fight with other inmate

spedersen@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 30, 2013 

A Muscogee County Jail inmate beaten senseless by a dorm mate Aug. 23 has been hospitalized since, authorities said today.

Though Samuel Ferrell, who faces charges of burglary, is listed in satisfactory condition at The Medical Center, his aunt Charlotte Lamberson said he had major trauma. Lamberson said hospital officials told her Ferrell was paralyzed on the left side, had bleeding on the brain and a severe speech impediment caused by the beating.

Paul Morris, the health services administrator at the jail, said Ferrell was in unsatisfactory condition when nurses responded to the scene.

"The nurses were there within moments and realized the difficulties," Morris said. "They secured him and called medical to take him straight to the ER.

"Because of their response, the outcome may be better than it might have been."

Muscogee County Commander Dane Collins, the jail's chief administrator, said he can't remember how long it has been since he's seen a jail fight of this magnitude.

"We may have one a year that's this bad," Collins said. "But this place is made of concrete and metal, so if you fall, it could be bad. But our internal investigation showed our guys did everything right. They got there as soon as they could."

Ferrell's alleged assailant, Verell Harris, has been charged with aggravated assault. Authorities say Harris, who was initially in jail for financial transaction card theft, beat Ferrell so badly that when they got to Ferrell, he was unresponsive and breathing sporadically.

According to an incident report, two officers were finishing lockdown procedures at 11:53 p.m. when they noticed inmates stopping and massing together as they headed toward "Cut 2D4," a hallway to a dormitory. Collins said Harris and Ferrell were both occupants of the same dorm.

The officers found Ferrell on the floor, where he didn't respond after being shaken. When medical personnel arrived, the report states, "it was found that inmate Ferrell suffered lacerations over both eyebrows and was having trouble breathing."

During the officers' investigation, they found no visible injuries on any inmates, according to the report. All inmates of the dormitory were questioned, but gave no information.

More than three hours later, an inmate reported that he knew the aggressor, but wanted officers to question seven other inmates. Those interviews determined Harris was the attacker, according to the report.

According to jail records, Ferrell was incarcerated March 29 for violation of probation, two charges of obstruction, criminal damage to property and burglary.

Harris initially was jailed July 7 on charges of violation of parole, possession of tools during the commission of a crime, financial card theft, loitering or prowling and obstruction.

Collins said the Muscogee County Jail on average has about 1,200 inmates every day. Friday morning, according to Sheriff John Darr's Twitter, the jail housed 1,219 inmates.

When Ferrell returns to jail, Collins said he'll likely go to the clinic.

"We try to keep prey away from predators," Collins said. "We'll house him in the best possible environment, and of course be kept away from Harris."

Morris, the heath services administrator, said he's seen a sharp decrease in violence since he's been there off and on for nearly 17 years.

These brutal fights were nearly a weekly occurrence, he said, recalling a story from his first year on the job when he witnessed an inmate so severely beaten his skull was caved in and he could see a softball-size fracture.

Morris said the decrease in violence should be attributed to Collins, who, Morris said, has beefed up training and been an advocate for mental health programs.

"The last couple of years have gone a long way to decrease the level of stress and violence" between officers and inmates, Morris said. "There are so fewer injuries now than there once were it's almost shocking."

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