BOLIVIA, NC - An Erwin man is suing Brunswick County, claiming sheriff's deputies stripped him naked, peppered-sprayed him and beat him after he was wrongfully arrested.
The following is a video from Brunswick County Jail surveillance camera posted on YouTube by Damien Guarniere, who has filed a lawsuit stemming from the incident.
Damien Guarniere filed a lawsuit earlier this month against Brunswick County, three sheriff's deputies, former Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett in his official capacity, an Ocean Isle Beach police officer and the town of Ocean Isle Beach.
The lawsuit states Ocean Isle Beach Police Officer Parks Reid arrested Guarniere in September 2007 and charged him with driving while impaired. Though his breath alcohol test showed a 0.06 percent blood alcohol content, below the legal limit, a Brunswick County magistrate ordered he be held in jail, according to the lawsuit.
Guarniere's attorney, Mark Lewis, said Reid stopped his client that night because he rolled past a stop sign.
The suit alleges Reid wrongfully arrested Guarniere and had him detained in the Brunswick County jail.
The suit names the town of Ocean Isle Beach as a defendant because Reid is an employee of the town. Town Attorney Elva Jess defended the police officer, saying, “I think the police department and the officer appropriately handled the matter when the initial arrest was made.”
Lewis also said he has filed a tort claim against the magistrate who ordered Guarniere be held in jail.
The lawsuit says Guarniere was stripped and put into a cell. After he banged on the cell door asking why he was detained, deputies pepper-sprayed him. Then after he protested more, they entered the cell and he ran out. The lawsuit says punches were thrown. Deputies Ernest Flowers, Steven Gerstenmier and Edrena McAfee are named as defendants in the suit.
Guarniere was charged with two counts of assault on a police officer and one count of injury to personal property. He was found not guilty by a jury in May after spending approximately 83 days in jail awaiting trial, according to the lawsuit.
But the attorney for the county's insurance company, Chris Geis, said the only one injured in the incident was a sheriff's detective who happened to be at the jail.
He said that person suffered a separated shoulder and had to have surgery.
That injury spurred the assault against a police officer charge.
“I guess the jury cut him a break. It doesn't mean that he didn't do anything wrong,” Geis said, adding Guarniere was out of control and disruptive.
He said he did not know the circumstances of Guarniere's original incarceration but said, “Jailers just don't hold people unless they have authority to hold people.”
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