Paralyzed man Christopher Shaw sues Beaumont officer, city and sheriff’s office

A Beaumont man filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday against the city of Beaumont, a police officer, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the county jail’s medical contractor, CorrHealth.

Christopher Shaw, his lawyers and representatives from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition announced the lawsuits Thursday morning on the steps of the Jack Brooks Federal Building in Beaumont.

Shaw, 42, alleges that on June 12, 2021, Beaumont police officer James Gillen paralyzed him while in police custody.

Needing medical assistance and arrested for public intoxication, Shaw was taken by Beaumont police to Baptist Hospital for a security check before being taken to the Jefferson County Jail, according to one of its lawyers, Chance Lynch, based in North Carolina, Lynch Law, PLC.

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At the jail, Lynch said, Gillen attempted to usher Shaw inside where a “fight” ensued in which Shaw pulled away from Gillen, who then allegedly “reached out his hand and tried to slam him against the concrete”.

The two men fell, then three or four deputies from the prison came to lend a hand.

Lynch said he and the other attorneys viewed video footage, which has not been made public, of what happened once Shaw was brought inside the jail.

“When (Shaw) went inside, following a non-compliance, the three deputies placed Mr. Shaw against a glass wall next to the reservation area,” Lynch said. “Mr. Shaw, and I want to be very clear, was under the complete control and custody of these three Jefferson County Jail deputies. He posed no threat, no risk to anyone in this proceeding.”

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Lynch said the video showed Gillen “snatching” Shaw, who was already handcuffed and restrained by the three deputies, and knocking him in the air, landing him on his head on the concrete floor.

“Blood poured from his head from a laceration caused by the concrete floor,” Lynch said. “The officer fell on top of him. And as the officer stood up, (Shaw) was lying there, unconscious, not knowing what had happened to him.”

Shaw was later taken back to Baptist Hospital and released after a brief evaluation, Lynch said.

Gillen then took Shaw back to jail.

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“CCTV shows that when Mr Shaw arrived and exited the patrol vehicle he was placed in a wheelchair and an assistant officer had to help Gillen usher him into the Jefferson County Jail holding his legs of Mr. Shaw,” Lynch said. . “The prison surveillance video also shows that Mr Shaw was slumped in his seat outside of a normal posture in which he could not control his legs and had very little control over his arms.”

Lynch said Shaw was placed on a bed but slipped because he had no control over his extremities.

“Mr. Shaw asked for help,” Lynch said. “He asked the nurse who was on staff to help him. But what did she say? This is what she said: ‘I’m not going to help you until you won’t help. Nobody helped him. Using the toilet on himself he deposited his own feces and urine and they still didn’t help.

After almost 24 hours, Lynch said Shaw’s breathing became labored and he again asked for help.

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An ambulance took Shaw to another hospital where he was determined to be paralyzed from the chest down, Lynch said.

Shaw has since had several surgeries but still cannot walk, he said.

After the incident, Shaw was indicted by a grand jury for assaulting a peace officer and Gillen was cleared by the same jury.

Beaumont Police Chief James Singletary said at the time that he stood by Constable Gillen.

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On Thursday, Singletary said he could not comment on the lawsuit due to litigation.

On Thursday, Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens said she was unaware of the lawsuit.

Beaumont City Attorney Sharae Reed did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit by press time Thursday.

“It baffles me that we stand outside the federal courthouse in Beaumont, Texas on the corner of a street called Liberty as we fight for this able-bodied man, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication” , said Lynch. “It should baffle and enrage you to ask any number of questions, to demand accountability.”

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Co-counsel Harry Daniels of Georgia firm The Law Offices of Harry Daniels, LLC, at the press conference said Shaw’s case was similar to that of Randy Cox, a Connecticut man whose story has came to national attention after video footage emerged showing Cox sustaining an injury in the back of a police van that left him partially paralyzed.

“The difference why the world’s media isn’t here in Beaumont is because Beaumont officials didn’t release the video,” Daniels said. “They gave us the indication that (the release of the video) could (compromise) the security of the jail, but guess what? That same security and that same image that they are talking about can be found on the Beaumont Sheriff’s website The same processing admissions room has a photo on the Beaumont Sheriff’s website and it’s the same place where Mr. Shaw was assaulted by Constable Gillen.

Lawyers for Shaw and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition are calling for the release of video of the incident in the name of justice and transparency.

Daniels said CorrHealth is included in the lawsuit for Shaw’s alleged “willful disregard of treatment.”

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“(Shaw) has a constitutional right — a 14th Amendment right to be protected — to obtain medical care and help. It didn’t happen,” Daniels said. “He’s paralyzed. Who knows what (would have happened) if they had acted quickly? Maybe Mr. Shaw would be here with us today, not in a wheelchair.”

CorrHealth did not respond to a request for comment by press time Thursday.

The team of attorneys was in contact with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, which referred the matter to the local FBI office, Daniels said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, but Lynch said the lawsuit isn’t about finances, it’s about families.

“This family will never be the same because of the actions of this officer and the inaction of these medical professionals who had a duty to give him medical care that they chose not to,” said he declared.

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