Detention center officer accused of punching inmate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an allegation that a detention center officer punched an inmate. The guard said the inmate, who was strapped in a restraining chair, spit at him.
Ronald “Rodney” Howard Link told the Post he was placed in a restraint chair May 19 after a combination of bipolar medication and alcohol sent him into a psychotic state. He was arrested after falsely claiming his wife, Melissa, stabbed him.
Link said the psychosis subsided after he was placed in a restraint chair in an isolation room at the Rowan County Detention Center.
But his troubles didn’t end there, he claims.
Shortly after being jailed, Link was charged again with felony malicious conduct by a prisoner after a guard said Link spit at him. Link denies that.
“I’m in the chair right behind the door,” Link said. “So he has to open the door and come in behind me. Unless he’s in my face, I don’t see how I could have spit at him.”
In his complaint, Link wrote that he told detention center officer Rafael Pla he needed to use the restroom, but was allegedly told to “p— in your pants.”
Link said he began arguing with the officer, who then punched him in the right eye from behind. He was released from the jail after three days.
“He went in without a black eye and he came out with one,” Melissa Link said. “They do not have a right to do this.”
She said she fears if her husband ever winds up in the county jail again, he will face retaliation.
“The officer created this situation,” she said. “My husband gets to wear a felony charge and he gets to go home and sleep.”
Ronald Link, 39, has been convicted of 26 offenses since 1989, including seven counts of felony indecent liberties with children in 2001, according to the Department of Corrections.
Sheriff Kevin Auten said the department is conducting an internal investigation. He hopes the process will be finished by the end of the week.
“Well, you have to look at all the videos, and then interview all the employees that were working at that time,” Auten said of the review process.
Link and a friend, Nancy Roach, both filed complaints against the department last week.
Roach told the Post a similar thing happened to her after she was arrested and charged with driving while impaired the following night. She told the Post she did not see her alleged attacker.
Capt. John Sifford said Roach’s claim is also under investigation.
Auten said Pla is the officer who charged Link with malicious conduct. There has been no change in his employment status, Auten said.
As far as the felony charge, Auten said, he believes the incident occurred and the proper charge was filed.
“We think that definitely took place,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office has not asked an outside agency to investigate, Auten said, but he is working with the District Attorney’s office during the investigation.
“We’ve conferred with the D.A. so far and as we move forward we’ll be in touch with her,” Auten said.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.