A former Franklin County Regional Jail inmate has filed a lawsuit claiming he was struck, had human waste rubbed in his face and was subjected to physical pain by a former chief deputy jailer who retired last year amid unrelated allegations of sexual misconduct.
Zachary T. Harrod, 33, filed a lawsuit Aug. 14 in federal court against former FCRJ Chief Deputy Kelly Rouse. It alleges that while in custody in May 2018, Harrod was subjected to excessive force and deprived of his constitutional right to due process. Harrod has demanded a jury trial as well as compensatory and punitive damages, court records state.
According to the lawsuit, Harrod was in custody of the jail on May 17, 2018, for a string of burglaries — one of which targeted the current Franklin County sheriff’s home — in which numerous firearms had been stolen.
In jail, Harrod had been placed in a paper gown and a “five point restraint chair” because of suicidal statements and behaviors. Harrod claims he was not allowed to use the restroom and twice urinated and defecated on himself in the restraint chair, each time being showered off and returned to the chair, the lawsuit states.
“After leaving the shower for the second time, (Harrod) observed Rouse mopping up (Harrod’s) urine and feces. (Harrod) remarked that Rouse’s brass chief deputy badge complemented the mop in his hand,” the lawsuit states. “In a fit of rage, Rouse left his mop, walked over to (Harrod) and slapped (Harrod) while he remained naked and strapped into the five-point restraint chair.”
Rouse walked over to the puddle of human waste, the lawsuit claims, and then returned to slap Harrod in the face again, allegedly saying that he had just wiped the waste on Harrod's face.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that Rouse applied a pressure point maneuver on Harrod while he was in the restraint chair, wrenched a strap of a straitjacket between his legs and placed spit masks on his face, causing Harrod to suffer physical injury “as well as mental and emotional injuries.”
“From the perspective of any reasonable officer on the scene, the actions and excessive force used by Rouse herein were objectively unreasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting him, regardless of the underlying intentions and motivations,” the lawsuit states. “The actions of the defendants against (Harrod) were arbitrary and wrongful government actions.”
In addition to the physical injury allegations in the lawsuit, Harrod claims that Franklin County was party to the violation of his constitutional rights because the county knew of Rouse’s “poor judgment, rage issues and history of harassment” yet placed him in a position of power.
The day of the alleged incident on May 17, 2018, Rouse had received a letter of suspension from Jailer Rick Rogers, notifying him that he would be placed on paid leave pending an investigation into sexual harassment of a female staff member by the former second-in-command of the jail. Rouse retired June 30, 2018, after an investigation found that employees at the jail described Rouse as “intimidating” and that he was found to have participated in misconduct.
“There is sufficient evidence that Chief Rouse has engaged in comments and/or behavior of either a direct or implied nature which has tended to create a hostile environment for female officers at the FCRJ,” the report stated.
No criminal charges were brought against Rouse, and the report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether his behavior violated the jail’s fraternization policy, which prohibits relationships in the workplace. The report cost the county more than $14,000 and has largely been withheld from public scrutiny despite open records requests from The State Journal.
The allegations of excessive force are not the first to arise in Rouse’s career in law enforcement. He was named as a defendant in two federal lawsuits against the city of Richmond while he was employed as a police officer for the city.
In 2007, a black 17-year-old named Travis Parks filed a lawsuit against Richmond, alleging that three white officers — including Rouse — attacked him with police batons while he was trying to get emergency aid for his mother, who’d just been struck by a pizza delivery driver. The teen claimed the officers then conspired to conceal the facts of what happened in their written reports, the lawsuit states.
An independent investigation found that the charges of menacing and disorderly conduct the teen faced after the incident were justified but the excessive force was not.
In 2009, a woman named Kelly Yockey filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that Rouse attacked her after she’d gone to the Richmond Police Department to speak with an officer about her boyfriend’s arrest. Yockey was 16 weeks pregnant at the time and claimed that Rouse threw her to the ground on her stomach and chest and placed his knee on her back as he arrested her for disorderly conduct, the lawsuit states.
A jury eventually found Yockey was not guilty of the charge.
Both lawsuits were voluntarily dismissed by the parties involved with prejudice. Whether a settlement was involved was not clear from court records. At least in the case of Parks, each party had to bear their own attorney fees.
Harrod, the former FCRJ inmate, eventually pleaded guilty in January to criminal facilitation to first-degree burglary, receiving stolen property (more than $500 but less than $10,000), first-degree fleeing or evading police (on foot), 12 counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of third-degree burglary, all Class D felonies; resisting arrest, a Class A misdemeanor; and two counts of third-degree criminal mischief, a Class B misdemeanor. He was sentenced to five years’ probation contingent on completion of substance abuse rehab.
A court date in the federal lawsuit has yet to be scheduled. Both Rouse and Franklin County have been served with the complaint.