State AG: Evidence shows use of Taser, pepper spray on inmate before his death

Friday, May 12, 2017
Cory Hutcheson

Evidence being collected in the death of a Mississippi County Jail inmate shows he was Tased and pepper-sprayed while in custody, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said Thursday.

Hawley discussed the ongoing investigation into the death of 28-year-old Tory Sanders of Nashville, Tennessee, during a late-afternoon news conference in Jefferson City, Missouri, that was carried live on a conference call with reporters.

Earlier in the day, Hawley and Missouri Department of Public Safety director Drew Juden visited the jail in Charleston, Missouri, to meet with investigators from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

At the news conference, the attorney general offered his “deepest condolences” to Sanders’ family and vowed to carry out a “full and vigorous investigation.”

Hawley said the patrol is collecting evidence in the case, including jail surveillance tapes.

“We do not believe we are in possession yet of the full surveillance material,” he said.

Sanders died May 5 at a Sikeston, Missouri, hospital.

Hawley said the “investigation is in its early stages.”

But he detailed a timeline of events leading up to Sanders’ death.

Sanders left his home in Nashville on May 4. That afternoon, his car ran out of gas near Marston, Missouri.

He hitched a ride with a motorist to Sikeston. Sanders visited a Wal-Mart store Thursday afternoon to receive a money wire transfer from his brother.

By Thursday night, he had made his way to Charleston, where he approached police officers at a convenience store.

“It appears he was confused where he was,” Hawley said.

At 11 a.m. May 5, Sanders again approached police at a convenience store.

“He signaled to officers that he was in distress of some sort, and he asked to see a counselor,” Hawley said.

Sanders told police there was a warrant for his arrest in Nashville stemming from an altercation involving the mother of his children.

Charleston police transported Sanders to the Mississippi County Jail, where they checked on the status of the warrant.

A mental-health professional also was asked to come to the jail to conduct an assessment.

Charleston police learned Missouri law enforcement had not been asked to detain Sanders in regard to the warrant or extradite him to Tennessee.

At noon, a mental-health professional evaluated Sanders, who was placed in a holding cell.

The professional concluded Sanders did not need to be committed and recommended he be released.

At 12:20 or 12:30 p.m., it “appears” Sanders declined to leave the holding cell, according to Hawley.

Sanders became increasingly agitated, the early evidence shows, Hawley said.

Later in the afternoon, a deputy sheriff allowed Sanders to call his mother using the deputy’s cellphone. Hawley added investigators believe Sanders made several calls to family members between 4 and 4:30 p.m.

Around 4 p.m., the mental-health professional was called in a second time to evaluate Sanders.

This time, it was recommended he be held in jail for 96 hours.

Sometime before 6 p.m., the jail staff decided to move Sanders to a different holding cell. Sanders apparently was unwilling to move, Hawley said.

“This resulted in a series of altercations between Sanders and jail staff that lasted to about 6:45 p.m.,” Hawley said.

During that time, Charleston police were summoned and pepper-sprayed Sanders.

“Over the course of the day, we believe jail personnel employed Tasers at least three times on Mr. Sanders,” Hawley said.

At 7 p.m., then-Sheriff Cory Hutcheson arrived at the jail and “proceeded to organize” jail personnel and Charleston police in an attempt to force their way into the holding cell.

At 7:15 p.m., Hutcheson led the group into the cell. Ten minutes later, emergency medical personnel were summoned. They arrived after 7:30 p.m. Sanders was transported by ambulance to the Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston, where, according to Mississippi County Coroner Terry Parker, he died at 8:08 p.m.

Last month, the Attorney General’s Office filed 18 criminal charges of assault, robbery and forgery against Hutcheson.

Hawley said Thursday he had asked a Mississippi County court at that time to deny bond and keep the sheriff in jail.

“We also asked that Hutcheson not be permitted to engage in any form of law-enforcement activity; however, the court denied both of our requests,” he said.

Earlier this week, Hawley asked a court to remove the embattled Hutcheson. A judge then granted a preliminary order banning the sheriff from office.

“Mr. Hutcheson has been entirely removed from office,” Hawley said, adding the sheriff has surrendered his “officially issued firearm.”

Hawley said the legal action taken to remove Hutcheson from office is independent of the criminal investigation.

“It is extremely unusual, very rarely used, but we felt circumstances warranted it,” the attorney general said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3641

Pertinent address:

Mississippi County Jail, Charleston, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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