Triangle reacts to inmate death - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Triangle reacts to inmate death

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Selene Mayer is a correctional officer at Caledonia Prison in Halifax County. After she saw the surveillance video of Wake County Correctional Officer Markeith Council slamming inmate Shon Demetrius McClain to the ground, she understood why Council had to do it.

"When somebody's coming after you and you're in that type of situation where you're outnumbered, you're trying to get that situation handled quickly, as quickly as possible. He probably thought his life was in danger. He was by himself surrounded by 20 -25 probably more inmates," Mayer said.

Earlier today, Council took the stand to share his side of the story.

He said, "You assume you're about to get punched. So I pushed him back and told him to get back. I'm telling him don't let his friends get him in trouble, because again you can hear these guys saying stuff to him."

The surveillance video clearly shows a verbal altercation, followed by the officer and inmate struggling, and then Council slamming the inmate to the ground.

For the last six years Mike Cohen has been sending prisoners letters and books all over the country as part of his work with the Chapel Hill-based Prison Books Collective.

"This happens all the time. We get letters from prisoners all the time articulating abuses of this nature," said Cohen.

He said just because they show aggression, does not mean they should suffer abuse.

"I don't think that gives officers the license to kill a prisoner as soon as they feel threatened," said Cohen.

But officer Mayer doesn't believe any guard intends to kill, but rather quickly control a situation before it gets worse.

"If they put their minds to it, prisoners can take over that facility. Your heart starts racing, your hands sweating, you react. That's what they train us to do. React," Mayer said.

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Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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