No charges filed against deputy after inmate hurt

Surveillance video shows Allegan County Deputy Jacob Kapanui use his knee to restrain inmate Aaron Henderson on Feb. 20, 2014.

WARNING: If you continue to scroll down, you will see a graphic image that may be disturbing to some viewers.

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — Third-party investigators recommended charges against a deputy after an inmate was hurt at the Allegan County Jail last year — but what that recommendation was and why prosecutors didn’t file charges is still unknown.

The document that should explain why the Allegan County Prosecutor declined to authorize charges against the Allegan County Jail officer. (May 20, 2015)
(The document that should explain why the prosecutor declined to authorize charges against the deputy.)

Wednesday, 24 Hour News 8 obtained a 209-page police document through the Freedom of Information Act that should have explained what charges were recommended against Allegan County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Kapanui and why Allegan County Prosecutor Fred Anderson refused the charges. But the page listing that information was almost entirely redacted.

Nearly all the text on the page was blacked out. The most information it provided was that the case was closed and the “warrant denied.”

The investigation stemmed from an incident on Feb. 20, 2014, when Aaron Henderson was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge. While he was being booked into the Allegan County Jail, he was deemed suicidal. The police documents 24 Hour News 8 obtained say Henderson was high on amphetamines, ecstasy and opiates and was paranoid. Jail officers moved him to a solitary cell and tried to get him into a suicide prevention gown.

“While attempting to remove his clothes, Deputy Jacob Kapanui gave Henderson a knee strike to the head area, which caused an injury to his right eye and nose. This was captured on video footage from the segregation cell,” the Berrien County Sheriff Office case report states.

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation because Kapanui works for the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office. 24 Hour News 8 obtained a copy of the Berrien County report from the Allegan County undersheriff.

According to the documents, the three officers in the cell said the force used was “necessary to protect reporting officer; necessary to protect another; necessary to prevent crime; to restrain for subject’s safety; to maintain order/enforce department policy.”

According to the case report, Kapanui said he came into the segregation cell because a third officer was needed to restrain Henderson. After trying unsuccessfully to restrain him using different pressure points, Kapanui used his knee to keep Henderson’s head on the bench because Henderson was moving it wildly and banging it into the wall.

A photo of Aaron Henderson after the alleged assault by an Allegan County Sheriff's deputy. Henderson is wearing a mess mask to prevent him from spitting on law enforcement.
(A photo of Henderson after the alleged assault by an Allegan County Sheriff’s deputy. He is wearing a mesh spit mask.)

Kapanui did not believe the force he used were excessive or that he injured Henderson in the process. He said Henderson was hurt when his head struck the wall, but Henderson believes that his injuries were caused when Kapanui kneed him.

The documents say that Henderson was left in his segregation cell for about 14 hours before being taken to Allegan General Hospital for care.

The Allegan County’s Sheriff’s Office also conducted an internal review and deemed that the force Kapanui used was not within the county’s Defensive Tactics Training. He was disciplined with a one-day unpaid suspension.

24 Hour News 8 reached out to Prosecutor Anderson over the phone and in person on Wednesday, but he didn’t return requests for comment. Case records directly from Berrien County authorities may not be redacted and may provide more information.

Henderson, who now lives in Florida, is suing the county and the deputy for damages in excess of $75,000.

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