Jailers Show a Paraplegic Who's Boss

Richard Post was taken to jail in his wheelchair for mouthing off in a bar. Joe Arpaio's detention officers saw him as such a threat, they strapped him into a medieval restraint chair--and broke his neck.

"If you keep flushing the toilet, I'm going to turn off the water," a guard warned him when he saw what Post was doing. "I don't care, I need a catheter," he says he responded.

Water began spilling across the room, and into the hall.
Arpaio's jailers didn't like that. Sergeant Steve Kenner decided Post needed to be strapped into a restraint chair.

"We'll see how you like it in this chair," Post says Kenner told him.
By the officers' own accounts, Post did not struggle as he was put into the chair about 4 a.m. He did tell them, however, that he had to be put on his gel pad.

Like other paraplegics, Post has to sit on the pad to prevent pressure sores from forming. If he sits on something hard for as little as 15 minutes, sores that may require surgery will form.

The pad is a pliable item, like clay sealed in a sheet of wax paper and tucked into a cloth slipcover.

Detention officers Kenner and Rocky Medina strapped Post down into the hard chair without the pad.

"Put the cushion under me!" Post says he yelled at them. "You don't know what will happen to me."

"Too bad," was Kenner's response, Post says.
"Post claimed he needed a 'pad' to sit on while in the chair," Kenner wrote in a report a week after the incident. "I informed him that would be up to medical staff to provide for him. At 0410 hours, R.N. Betsy and Nursing Supervisor Kay Atkinson checked Post's restraints and stated that he would need the pad placed under him. I informed them that I needed to get the water cleaned up in that area first as the standing water was a safety hazard."

(Kenner doesn't mention that Post could have been wheeled away from the water while still in the restraint chair.)

Post pleaded with the detention officers to put the pad under him. He also complained to a nurse, telling her that the straps were constricting his shoulders so severely his hands had gone numb.

"Wiggle your fingers," she responded. So he did.
"He's fine," she told the guards. Post says the detention officers laughed at his concerns, and their smirks are visible on the videotape.

The sheriff's own investigators estimate that Post was strapped down in the restraint chair without a pad for 70 minutes. Post says it was more than two hours.

Finally, Kenner decided he had better put the pad under Post. He and another detention officer pulled Post into the hall. Post says Kenner sparked a stun gun near his ear before handing it to his partner.

"Stick him in his neck if he fucking moves," Post says Kenner uttered as he reached down to unlock one of the straps holding Post down. Post says Kenner didn't loosen up the straps enough so that Post could lift himself up far enough to get the pad properly underneath him. Instead, Kenner shoved the pad about halfway under Post's buttocks. And then, before reclasping the straps, he tightened them down even further.

To accomplish this, Post says, Kenner placed his foot on the seat between Post's legs for leverage, then pulled sharply on the straps, making them bite down hard on his shoulders.

Post--a man paralyzed below his waist--apparently was seen as enough of a threat to warrant six hours in the restraint chair. Only when Kenner went off duty and was replaced by another sergeant did detention officers release Post from the chair. Kenner did not return calls from New Times.

Post left jail later that morning and, after a short trial, was found guilty of possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia, and criminal trespass. His penalty: six months probation and a $750 fine.

Post paid a heavy price for the time he spent in the restraint chair. Two hours on a hard surface gave him an ulcerated anus, which left Post bedridden for the next four months. He narrowly avoided surgery that would have required a temporary colostomy.

His time in bed forced him to drop out of college.
That wound eventually healed, but Post continued to have problems with his shoulders, neck and arms. The pain of being cinched down so tight in the chair never quite left, and gradually Post began experiencing trouble using his arms.

Months later, he sits twisted in his wheelchair, his right arm only a thin reminder of the strength he once had. He can't raise the arm higher than his shoulder, can no longer write or play billiards, and his left hand repeatedly goes numb. X-rays of Post's neck show serious problems.

On January 9, neurosurgeon Dr. Mazen H. Khayata told Post he had a broken neck.

Khayata told Post that he planned to operate, and would address the problem through the front of his neck. Khayata said he would crack open Post's sternum, remove one of Post's vertebrae, put in steel posts, and then fuse the remaining vertebrae together.

Post asked the doctor how the damage could have occurred, and Khayata told him there must have been a massive compression downward on his shoulders. Khayata asked him how that might have happened.

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