Willie C. Jones III was in jail in mid-June, still groggy after being kicked in the head by a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy, when he was handed a document to sign promising not to sue the deputy for excessive force, along with a check for $4,000 for his troubles.
Jones said he was bullied into signing the document before he was released on bail, not fully understanding what it said or meant. But he never cashed the check and has since filed a claim to sue the deputy and sheriff’s department for $5 million.
The 33-year-old diesel mechanic has yet to be charged in the June 16 incident in which deputies accused him of leading them on a pursuit while riding a motorcycle before ditching the bike and surrendering in the parking lot of a car dealership.
However, the deputy who kicked him, Corie Smith, was charged with felony assault last month by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and is now facing a year in prison.
But even though Smith has a warrant out for his arrest, he has yet to be served because that task falls on the sheriff’s department which has announced it has no plans to arrest him until it conducts its own “investigation,” according to the Victorville Daily Press.
But the sheriff’s department has been presumably investigating the incident since the video was leaked to TMZ two days after the incident, thwarting the attempted coverup by the sheriff’s department. The video was recorded by a security camera at the car dealership and shows Jones raising his arms before lying on his stomach as the deputy approaches and kicks him in the head twice.
Smith, 28, remains on paid administrative leave. Nine months ago, he was being celebrated as a hero after receiving two Lifesaving Awards for saving the lives of children in two separate incidents in 2020.
If only he could have refrained from kicking a non-resisting suspect in the head but that is part of the culture at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department as we’ve seen in previous cases, including the 2015 incident in which ten deputies were caught on video beating and kicking a suspected horse thief, leading to a $650,000 settlement within two weeks.
That incident led to charges against three deputies of which one, Charles Foster, was convicted in 2017. However, he had the conviction reversed upon appeal the following year and remains a sheriff’s deputy.
Sharon Brunner, the attorney who negotiated the $650,000 settlement but is not involved in the current case, told the San Bernardino Sun that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has twice in the past year tried to force her clients to sign waivers not to sue for excessive force while they were in the hospital recovering from injuries inflicted by deputies.
Although they signed the documents, she filed lawsuits anyway which remain pending.
“This appears to be a new trend that in my experience San Bernardino County is engaging in. It’s highly inappropriate and highly unethical, and it’s generally done when clients are at their most vulnerable,” Brunner told the Sun. “To ask Mr. Jones to sign a release when he hasn’t gone to an attorney or doctor, that just reeks of undue influence and intimidation.”
Although Smith has yet to be served with his arrest warrant, he has a scheduled court date on January 26, 2022, according to the High Desert Daily News.
Watch the video below.