WTRJ officer fired after alleged assault

Published 9:58 pm Monday, November 21, 2016

A correctional officer was terminated from his job at Western Tidewater Regional Jail earlier this month after allegedly choking, handcuffing and beating an inmate with no provocation.

Justin Bush, attorney for the victim, Gregory Lassiter, said the incident happened on Nov. 5. Lassiter, 35, has been sentenced for his role in a March purse-snatching and credit card theft. He was awaiting transfer to the state penitentiary, Bush said.

Bush said Lassiter was choked from behind until he passed out, handcuffed and beaten. There is video of the incident, but he has not yet seen it.

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“I think it’s a travesty in a civilized society that a person who’s supposed to be being taken care of by these officers is viciously attacked,” Bush said. “The jail has an obligation as well to make sure they employ people that don’t do this sort of thing.”



Bush said Lassiter was left with broken bones and a concussion from the assault and is still receiving treatment.

Superintendent William C. Smith of the Western Tidewater Regional Jail called the assault an “isolated incident.”

“If they (correctional officers) violate the rules, we take disciplinary action against them, and certainly this is a case that shows that.”

Smith said all uses of force in the facility are reviewed by the immediate supervisor as well as management staff. The investigation determined the correctional officer violated policies, so he was terminated, Smith said.

Smith said the other officers involved were not aware of how the incident began.

“It was determined that all other officers were responding to an emergency call for immediate assistance by a staff member and did not have knowledge of the previous excessive use of force,” Smith wrote in an email.

He said the termination took place “almost immediately” — on Monday or Tuesday of the following week, after the incident happened on Saturday.

Smith also said the case was referred to the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and is being investigated for any criminal violations.

Bush said Lassiter is considering a civil suit against the correctional officers as well as the jail.