An Oregon county sheriff’s office has condemned the actions of three of its deputies who filmed and laughed at an Army veteran as he died of a drug overdose in a padded jail cell.
The veteran, 31-year-old Bryan Perry, served in the Iraq War, was honorably discharged and received a Purple Heart, his lawyer told local media outlets. Perry’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Clackamas County.
Two videos were filmed on the deputies’ cell phones in November 2016. In them, viewers can hear the jailers laughing at a man as he flails around in agony.
“We should go show this to his girlfriend and be like, ‘You love this?’ ” one of the deputies said on the recording.
Perry and his girlfriend were arrested together. Prior to the girlfriend being escorted to a separate holding tank for women, she yelled, “I love you, Bryan.”
Perry yelled back, “I love you, too.”
That information comes from 18 pages of police records that the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office released this week.
Perry was being held in the jail cell after allegedly violating his probation, according to the records.
Sheriff Craig Roberts issued a statement Thursday:
“I cannot comment on the pending lawsuit, which focuses primarily on Mr. Perry’s medical care provided by the Jail medical contractor," he said. “But I will say this: The laughter, substance, and tone of several comments heard from my employees in that video were inappropriate, and do not conform to our professional standards.”
Perry’s post-mortem examination reported levels of amphetamine, methamphetamine and THC in his system. He told police, when he was searched upon arrival at the jailhouse, that he had used bath salts, heroin and meth.
Perry arrived at the jail after 7 p.m., according to police reports. By about 11:45 p.m., he was deemed unresponsive and rushed to a hospital while in cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at 12:16 a.m.
In the roughly four hours between when Perry arrived at the jail and was taken to the hospital, he was reported to be moving erratically and twitching to varying degrees, which is not uncommon with methamphetamine users, police said.
The jail housing sergeant saw Perry being placed in a chair during booking.
“It also indicated to me that Mr. Perry was not being uncooperative or combative but just unable to sit still,” the sergeant wrote in his narrative of the incident. He added that potential weapons, like a chair, are not given to combative inmates.
The housing sergeant’s narrative states that Perry’s girlfriend was exhibiting similar erratic behavior. The deputies believed the couple had ingested the same substance, but she was experiencing worse symptoms.
“[She] was not responding verbally and had begun to foam at the mouth brown and bloody looking fluid,” one deputy’s report reads.
The girlfriend was taken to the hospital at roughly 9:40 p.m.
The deputies and a nurse continued to observe Perry for nearly two hours. As his condition worsened, they held him down and took his vitals. He became less rigid and the color left his face, so the group began CPR on Perry and retrieved an automated external defibrillator, or AED.
On page seven of the 18-page file, the report states that the AED failed to work.
“At one point the AED stated, ‘Shock Advised,’ but when the medical staff pushed the button, the message stated, ‘Shock Canceled,’ and no shock was delivered,” the report reads.
Paramedics arrived later and took Perry to the hospital, where he would be pronounced dead.
Roberts' office only released the two videos documenting the overdose the day after The Oregonian newspaper made a public records request for them and wrote about the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Perry’s family.
Perry’s mother and estate filed the suit, which alleges that county deputies and medical staff from Corizon Health Inc., the jail’s medical contractor, failed to properly screen Perry, get him immediate medical attention and send him to a hospital.
“We conducted an internal investigation and took disciplinary action against the employees who still worked at the Sheriff’s Office,” Roberts said in his statement. “The employee who filmed the video had resigned by the time of that investigation.”
Roberts did not say what type of disciplinary action was taken against the two deputies who still work in his office.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.