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Lawsuit filed against former corrections officers fired over ‘excessive force’

The lawsuit claims 19-year-old inmate Terry Whitehead was pepper sprayed, handcuffed, and badly beaten by the two officers.

LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) – A lawsuit was filed against two former Metro Corrections Officers who were fired over “excessive force” in April.

Corrections Officers David Schwartz, 47, and Devan Edwards, 21, were found to have used excessive and unnecessary force on a Metro inmate and they were fired on April 24. The officers claimed the inmate failed to follow their directions in an incident on April 15.

RELATED: Metro Corrections terminates two officers for excessive force

The lawsuit claims 19-year-old inmate Terry Whitehead was pepper sprayed, handcuffed, and badly beaten by the two officers.

The lawsuit states:

“After beating Whitehead in his cell, they then transported him to a different holding area and continued to beat him by taking turns punching him in the face and head.”

Bodycam video shows inmate Terrance Whitehead being punched in the head by a Metro Corrections officer while he sits handcuffed in a room. That's seen happening once. The federal lawsuit claims there was "continuous blows to his face and head."

WARNING: This video may be upsetting to some.

WARNING: The above video may be upsetting to some.

The inmate was taken to University of Louisville Hospital on April 25 after he lost consciousness while in custody, according to the lawsuit. He suffered contusions and swelling as a result of the attack, along with losing consciousness.

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Whitehead's lawsuit said the officers never commanded actions of him that he resisted, he never attacked the officers after being pepper sprayed.

The lawsuit seeks a trial by jury and unspecified monetary damages.

Schwartz and Edwards were hired by to work at Metro Corrections on Sept. 8, 2017.

Whitehead is currently being housed at a state prison system.

The director of Metro Corrections, Mark Bolton, said after he viewed the body camera video in April he took swift action in firing the officers.

Mayor Greg Fischer released a lengthy statement Saturday:

"The disturbing and totally unacceptable actions of these two probationary officers do not reflect the values of Louisville Metro Government, nor our Metro Corrections team. Director Bolton was right in taking immediate action to terminate the officers and referring the matter for criminal investigation, which clearly signals this behavior will not be tolerated, violations are taken very seriously, including accountability through the justice system.

"This behavior is not representative of our Corrections staff. We have a very stringent screening process for officers that includes background checks, psychological tests and polygraphs, and we train our corrections officers for nine weeks following the best training standards in the country, followed by a field training period with seasoned corrections officers lasting three additional weeks. This is one of many reasons why our jail was accredited this year by the American Correctional Association, earning 100 percent on both mandatory and non-mandatory standards for all aspects of jail operations including management, health care delivery, and safety of staff and inmates.

"The ongoing criminal investigation and pending litigation prohibit me from commenting further on this case. But I am confident in the work that Director Bolton and his team are doing.”

Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine also addressed the incident.

“On April 15, 2018, an inmate of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) was assaulted by an officer employed by LMDC. A body cam video clearly shows Officer David Schwartz punching Terry Whitehead who was handcuffed. Once apprised of the situation, Director Mark Bolton terminated the employment of Schwartz and Officer Devan Edwards who observed the assault but apparently did not make the appropriate report.

A decision was made, without consulting me or the Office of Commonwealth’s Attorney, to present this matter to the FBI for investigation and potential federal charges to be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Kentucky. While I am not critical of that decision, it is important to understand that to date, the investigation of this behavior has not been provided to the Jefferson County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for either review or prosecution of violations of Kentucky criminal laws.

The first time I or my staff saw the video in question, was the broadcast on local television stations last week. I condemn the conduct of the LMDC officers involved and find it reprehensible. If the investigation of this matter is presented to our office for evaluation of criminal charges, an expedited review will be completed and any violations of Kentucky criminal law will be aggressively prosecuted

The public should be aware that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has a labyrinth of procedural rules that slow the process of an investigation such as this one. DOJ rules limit public announcements by the US Attorney as well as the FBI. DOJ should allow some latitude for comment by local federal authorities. The citizens of Jefferson County deserve greater transparency.

It continues to be the goal of the Jefferson County Office of Commonwealth’s Attorney and the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky to cooperate to obtain the maximum punishment for those who violate our laws, including those charged with enforcing our laws.”

After Wine's statement was released on Sunday, Whitehead's attorney Sam Aguiar reached out to WHAS11 News.

“This is not a game of pass the buck. Regardless of when and how the video was presented to Tom wine and his office, he has it now. What terry and his mother deserved to hear today was that Wine has consulted with law enforcement and is prepared to file charges against officer Schwartz Monday. But unfortunately, what we know from tom wine’s record is that he doesn’t act quickly in situations where there is officer misconduct, he doesn’t have much success prosecuting officer misconduct and he doesn’t prioritize officer accountability as part of his platform. Rather than his office being a deterrent to officer misconduct, it has been an enabler by sending a message that even the most severe instances will be handled at a snail’s pace if not entirely swept under the rug. Hopefully this unfortunate situation will prompt long overdue change and reform.”

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