Police chief asks SBI to look into Claymore Jones' arrest

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — Police Chief Rory Collins said Wednesday the department plans to ask the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the arrest of a Salisbury man after his death days after being taken into custody.
Collins said in a press release that the department will continue to conduct an internal investigation of 22-year-old Claymore Jones’ Dec. 30 arrest.
Jones died Tuesday morning after remaining on life support at Presbyterian Hospital for more than a week.
“… Due to the sensitivity of this matter and in order to maintain the faith and trust of our community, which is so vital to our success, I have decided to request that the State Bureau of Investigation also conduct a separate and thorough investigation into this matter,” Collins wrote in a press release.
“Though I do have full confidence that our department’s Professional Standards Unit would conduct nothing short of a thorough and professional investigation into this matter, I feel that with the SBI’s assistance, we will be able to eliminate any such concerns in this situation.”
Collins’ decision to involve the SBI came one day after Jones’ death and amid allegations of police brutality during Jones’ arrest.
Phyllis Worth, Jones’ aunt, said she saw injuries to the 22-year-old’s face when she arrived at the scene Dec. 30.
Although Worth said Jones was already in handcuffs when she arrived, she believes he was assaulted by officers while being chased into nearby woods by police.
“Those officers beat him,” Worth said Tuesday. “I said, ‘He’s sick. Please help him.’ ”
But Collins said officers acted appropriately and it was Jones’ pre-existing problems with blood clots that led to the large blood clot on his brain stem, which cut off oxygen to his brain and led to severe brain damage.
“Based on my initial review of the circumstances in this matter, I am confident that each of the two formal reviews will reveal that these detectives followed proper procedure and that they utilized very little force to affect Jones’ arrest, much less excessive force which led to his death,” Collins wrote.
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Police said they attempted to stop Jones after narcotics detectives saw a 1996 blue Honda near the intersection of Horah and Church streets. Collins said officers believed Jones was impaired.
Jones did not stop after officers turned on blue lights and sirens, police said, and he accelerated to get away.
Collins said Jones pulled into a driveway at his grandmother’s home at 628 W. Bank St., where he was living at the time, and fled on foot, leaving a 3-year-old boy behind in the car’s backseat.
Collins said in the release that officers are “very familiar” with Jones because of his extensive criminal history.
Officers chased him into nearby woods behind the house, where they tried to stop him again, but Jones got away from an officer’s grasp, Collins said, and circled back toward the home.
Detectives weren’t able to see Jones’ hands, Collins said, and he did not cooperate with officers as he was being arrested. An officer then, he said, drew his handgun and pulled Jones’ to the ground by his T-shirt.
Detectives seized $880 in cash and a set of digital scales, the release said.
Collins said Jones had a “strong odor of alcohol” and then stated to officers that he thought he was going to have a seizure.
Family members told the Post on Tuesday that Jones had a history of seizures and blood clots after suffering several gunshot wounds to his leg and arm last April.
Tashia Miller, another of Jones’ aunts, said Jones had been taking Coumadin, a prescription medication used to treat blood clots.
Relatives believe officers took too long before taking Jones to the hospital.
“They should have initially seen it as an emergency,” Miller said, “and not as a drug bust.”
But Collins said the situation was handled in a timely fashion.
Collins said a computer-aided dispatch report showed it took officers about 29 minutes to take him from 628 W. Bank St. to the emergency room.
“Keep in mind that part of this time was spent awaiting the ambulance, which is protocol,” Collins said in an email Wednesday.
Officers also waited for EMS responders to evaluate Jones, Collins said.
“ … they indicated that they saw no reason for him to be transported to the hospital,” Collins wrote in the press release.
After medical crews left, he said, detectives placed Jones in a patrol car and took him to Rowan Regional Medical Center shortly after.
In every case, Collins said, officers are trained to call EMS if an individual “gives indication that they are in need of medical attention.”
Collins said officers typically stay with those in custody until they are released from the hospital.
After taking him to the hospital, detectives charged Jones with driving while impaired, driving while license revoked and speeding to elude arrest.
A blood alcohol test was taken at the hospital, police said, but results were not available Wednesday.
Jones was transferred via helicopter to Presbyterian Hospital on Dec. 31.
Family members said doctors tried to remove the blood clot through an emergency surgery, but could not.
The father of eight died shortly after being taken off life support about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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Tashia Miller told the Post on Wednesday that the family just wants the truth.
“Anything that’s going to help us get some closure is fine,” Miller said. “We want the closure.”
She said family members are handling funeral arrangements and declined to comment further.
Charlotte Fair, who is pregnant with Jones’ child, said she’s glad the SBI is getting involved.
“If they don’t have anything to hide, then it shouldn’t be a big deal for them to do an investigation,” Fair said. “There’s too many unanswered questions. It doesn’t make sense.”
Fair said she needs resolution because her baby will never know his or her father. “Somebody’s got to answer for this,” she said. “There’s too many babies out here without a daddy now.”