By Frank Lewis
Three Lawrence County correction officers have been arrested and arraigned after an investigation involving the sheriff’s office and the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office.
Ronald S. Hatfield, 25; Jeremy S. Hanshaw, 36, and Jason Mays, 22, all face charges after an incident that reportedly occurred at the Lawrence County Jail.
Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said his detectives met with him and informed him they felt possibly up to three correction officers had been involved in the inappropriate treatment of a prisoner who had just been arrested and was entering the jail for the booking process on a charge of disorderly conduct.
“I advised the detectives to continue their investigation,” Lawless said. “On Aug. 20, 2014, I put the three corrections officers on notice that they were the focus of an internal investigation.”
Lawless said the prisoner in question was released shortly after the booking process and attempts by the detectives to locate him have been unsuccessful.
“On Aug. 21, 2014, detectives provided me with a statement from an eyewitness concerning the event in question along with other collaborating evidence that led me to believe that a possible crime had been committed,” Lawless said. “On the same day, my detectives and I met with Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson and presented our findings for his review.”
Lawless said Anderson agreed that the investigation into possible criminal activity needed to continue.
“On the same day (Aug. 21, 2014) I terminated the employment of one of the correction officers in question and placed the other two on paid administrative leave as required by the union bargaining unit agreement,” Lawless said.
He said detectives continued the investigation and tracking down possible witnesses to the incident. On Friday, detectives located the former prisoner and obtained his information.
“I was provided with what I believe is evidence of wrong doing, I acted quickly, firing one employee and suspending two others, this even before the possible victim could be found,” lawless said. “I took an oath to uphold the law and protect all citizens. I am not sure this man would have ever returned to complain and I could have sat on it and possibly saved a black eye on the agency but the person I am would not allow me to do that.”
On Friday the prosecutor’s office met with sheriff’s detectives and they were presented with witness statements and evidence that had been collected up to that point. Lawless said the Prosecutor’s office decided that the situation deserved arrest warrants and warrants were obtained for Hatfield and Hanshaw on a charge of felonious assault, a felony of the second degree. An arrest warrant was also obtained for Mays on a charge of tampering with evidence, a third degree felony.
Hatfield and Hanshaw were hired as correction officers in June of 2013 and Mays was hired in June of 2014.
Lawless said the investigation is continuing and additional charges could be added. He said all three were to be booked in the Lawrence County Jail and then transported to the Morrow County Jail unless they bond out.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.