Tent City Beating is Nearly Fatal

Page 2 of 4

Williams says Flanders was covered in his own blood and seemed to be choking on it. There was a five-inch gash on the back of his head and abrasions and bruises on his face. His head was beginning to swell.

Williams says the reaction of the guards was surprising: Flanders had been a favorite of the guards, Williams says, a good kid who was trying his best to turn his life around. One of the guards, a female detention officer, seemed so upset that she didn't bother to put gloves on before treating the injured inmate--something guards are never supposed to do, Williams says.

As Flanders was taken away, guards went to his tent to secure it as a crime scene. Williams says that as the guards were searching the tent, he heard a very distinct sound that he'd heard several times before: a heavy, metallic ringing.

"I heard a tent stake," he says. "There's only one other metal object that could have been in that tent and it was a bunk. But you couldn't pick up a bunk and drop it and make that 'cling cling' sound." The stakes are relatively easy to pull out of the ground, Williams says, and he's seen inmates carrying them several times in the past.

Campbell says the officer investigating the beating was unavailable to comment on Williams' assertion, but added that the Sheriff's Office would be unlikely to reveal details of its findings while the investigation is under way.

Williams says the inmates were also kept in the dark, not only about the nature and cause of the attack but also of Flanders' condition. The inmates assumed Jeremy Flanders would die.

Although his son's head had swelled so much one of his ears seemed to have been swallowed by it, Tom Flanders says the thing that made him most angry was to find out his son had been in St. Joseph's Hospital nearly a full day before the family was notified.

On Saturday morning, May 11, Judy and Tom Flanders were told that their son was in the intensive care unit at St. Joseph's, and that he required a ventilator to keep him breathing. They rushed to the hospital to find their son unconscious, his head distended immensely. Doctors explained that a CT scan had shown brain swelling.

The guard told them something else: The Flanderses couldn't take photographs of their son. They had made that request, but the guard told them he couldn't authorize it until he'd checked with his supervisor. He finally gave them permission to do so on Monday. By then, the Flanderses say, much of Jeremy's swelling had subsided and he'd been taken off the ventilator.

He was still having trouble eating, however, and his father says he needed help to walk to the bathroom. That's why they were surprised when they were told Jeremy would be moved the next day.

Dr. Salvatore Casano, who closed the gash on the back of Jeremy's head, says it's standard practice to move an inmate to the Maricopa Medical Center as soon as possible, and in this case, since Jeremy wasn't hooked up to an IV and his heart and breathing weren't being monitored, he was ready to be moved.

So Tuesday afternoon, May 14, Jeremy Flanders left St. Joseph's Hospital for the Maricopa Medical Center, only two days after being taken off life support. The next day, his mother called to talk to him, only to find that Jeremy had spent only a very short time at the medical center.

By that Wednesday afternoon, with staples still in his head, Jeremy Flanders was in a holding tank at the Madison Street Jail.

When Jeremy Flanders comes into a visitation room at the jail, it's hard to believe that seven inmates jumping on his head didn't kill him. He's very small, maybe five feet five, and the hand he extends has little strength in it.

His head is shaved, and it still shows the scars of being knocked around. One eye is still red with blood. Scabs and a lump form a ridge above his right temple. The scar on the back of his scalp seems to be healing nicely.

Flanders says he feels pretty good, considering. He's not very talkative, and he waits for questions before answering in a respectful way. It's not hard to see why guards took a liking to him. Flanders says he was given the job of cleaning the guards' "dayroom" and got to know them well. Then, recently, he asked to be transferred to the chain-gang detail.

As a trusty, he was allowed to go out with the chain gang without being chained himself. He'd help with the tools the chain gang used, and with supplying the men with food. Flanders says he appreciated the chance to spend hours away from the jail.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega