Report: Rowan County Detention Center incident started when officer asked for help, escalated into confrontation

Published 1:26 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

SALISBURY — Initially described as a fight among inmates, an incident at the Rowan County Detention Center in July started when an officer asked for help in a dorm.

The incident on July 8 initially was described by law enforcement officers from the Salisbury Police Department and Rowan Sheriff’s Office as a fight involving a dozen or more inmates at the Rowan County Detention Center. However, a report created by Rowan County Sheriff’s Office employees and provided to the Post shows the request for help escalated into a standoff between inmates and deputies.

The report, created July 9, states officer C.C. Blevins asked for help with an unspecified matter in dorm No. 1.

Master Deputy C.J. Andrews entered with a large can of pepper spray referred to as a “cell buster” and he saw inmates crowding toward the front of the dorm.

“He then pulled the pin from the cell buster and yelled for everyone to get onto their bunks,” the incident report states.

The inmates responded with obscenities and told responding officers they were “going to have to make them.” Andrews pointed the can of pepper spray at the dorm and heard “spray them” from behind him.

“Andrews then deployed the (pepper spray) in a sweeping motion,” the report states, noting the pepper spray was deployed at 10:35 p.m. on July 8. “As the officers began to back up towards the door, several inmates still appeared to be advancing towards the front of the dorm, so Andrews deployed a second round of (pepper spray) in another sweeping motion.”

A supervisor review of the incident says pepper spray was used only when officers thought they were going to be “physically engaged by the aggressive inmates.” Pepper spray was used “to prevent injury to the officers and allow them to tactically retreat until additional backup could be obtained to secure control of the large number of threatening inmates,” the report states.

Following an order from Lt. J.F. Gagliardi, Andrews called Rowan Communications to ask for help from sheriff’s deputies assigned to patrol. In addition to deputies, help dispatched to the jail included Salisbury Police, Rockwell Police, Highway Patrol, the Rowan County Special Response Team, the Rowan County ATLAS Team, command staff and Lt. J. Desmond.

Responding agencies placed restraints on inmates and escorted them out of the dorm to begin decontamination.

Capt. Greg Hannold, who supervises the Rowan County Detention Center, reviewed the incident in August, and said actions of officers involved were warranted.