Documents shed new light on alleged jail assault

Posted at 10:53 PM, May 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-20 23:01:37-04

ALLEGAN COUNTY - Documents obtained by FOX17 through the Freedom of Information Act are shedding new light on an alleged jail assault that prompted a lawsuit against a deputy in Allegan County.

The extensive report released on Wednesday details an internal investigation conducted by officials with the Allegan County Sheriff's Department, as well as an outside review conducted by the Berrien County Sheriff's Office.

Both reviews stem from an incident involving Aaron Henderson, who's now seeking damages in excess of $75,000 for an attack he says he suffered while being booked at the Allegan County jail in February 2014.

The documents reveal Henderson initially admitted to hospital staff to taking adderall, cocaine and percocet with alcohol the night of his arrest.  Documents show Henderson later denied taking anything illegal, telling investigators he felt like he might have been drugged the night of his arrest.

Henderson was transported to Allegan Hospital at his request the evening of February 19 according to documents obtained from the sheriff's department, where he voluntarily admitted himself to be evaluated by a doctor.

Documents show a short time later officers were called to the hospital on a report of Henderson acting disorderly and being uncooperative with the medical staff.  The report documents Henderson chose to leave the hospital after refusing treatment.

Not long after he left, documents show officers were called to another incident involving Henderson, where they say they found him standing on a vehicle yelling outside of a home.

This is where the story has two distinct sides.

Documents show Henderson says he was cooperative with police during his booking process, but was forced into a room and stripped of his clothes, alleging a deputy hit him in the head twice with his knee, smashing his head into a concrete wall.

Henderson suffered serious injuries to his face around his eye, with documents showing he later used his own blood to smear words around his jail cell.  Henderson told investigators he feared he wouldn't make it out of custody alive and wanted to leave behind as much DNA as possible.

Deputies involved in the altercation in the segregated cell describe a different scenario, saying Henderson was combative with officers, swearing and trying to kick and spit on them at times.

Henderson at one point is considered a possible suicide risk, leading to his placement in a segregated cell and the removal of his clothing for a provided gown.

The extensive report goes on to show Deputy Jacob Kapanui admitted to putting his knee on Henderson's head in an effort to restrain him, saying he was concerned Henderson would bite him or harm himself during the process.  Deputy Kapanui denied using excessive force.

Federal court documents show following the independent review by the Berrien County Sheriff's Department, charges were recommended for Deputy Kapanui, but not pursued by authorities in Allegan County.

The summary report of why the charges were recommended were redacted from the documents obtained by FOX17 on Wednesday.

Documents released Wednesday do show however Deputy Kapanui was issued a one day suspension for his actions in the incident, saying the tactics used by the deputy during the booking process weren't in unison with departmental training and policy.

An attorney representing the deputy and the county filed a response to the initial complaing filed in federal court, asking the lawsuit be dismissed.

For more on this investigation, including a closer look at the surveillance video being reviewed by both parties involved, click on the story links below.