The Wendt Law Firm, P.C. along with the Law Office of Michael Hoskins, P.C. filed a multi-count Complaint in federal court against Mississippi County, Missouri, its Jail staff, and the elected Sheriff, as well as the City of Charleston, Missouri and some of its police officers, alleging they violated the civil rights of Tory Sanders and caused his death.
On the morning of May 5, 2017, City of Charleston police officers were called to the scene of a local gas station where they encountered Mr. Sanders. According to the officers, Mr. Sanders was cooperative and peaceful, but acting strangely, paranoid, and requested to be checked out by a mental health professional. The officers took Mr. Sanders into protective custody and transported him to the Mississippi County Detention Center (MCDC) to await a mental health evaluation. Upon admission, the booking report indicated that Mr. Sanders was “currently” under a psychiatric disorder.
Mr. Sanders was evaluated from 12:07 pm to 12:20 pm. The crisis counselor determined that while Mr. Sanders was suffering from paranoia, had poor judgment and insight, and showed signs of mental illness, he did not meet the criteria for a 96-hour involuntary detention and he was not a threat to himself or anyone else. Mr. Sanders was supposed to be released at that time, but he was not. Instead, MCDC staff claim that at around 1:30 pm Mr. Sanders became belligerent, aggressive, and refused to leave the holding cell. MCDC also claim that they tried to release him, but he would not leave.
The crisis counselor returned around 4:02 pm and quickly determined that Mr. Sanders met the criteria for a 96-hour involuntary detention and prepared the paperwork for a Judge to sign ordering the involuntary detention. The crisis counselor confirmed that Mr. Sanders was not a harm to himself. It is unknown whether the paperwork was ever submitted to the Court. As of 6:05 pm the Court had not received it.
Surveillance video of the hallway outside Mr. Sanders’ holding cell show various jail staff banging and aggressively gesturing towards his cell door. At approximately 5:47 pm, the jail staff approach the cell door with TASERs in hand. For the next fifteen minutes, jail staff discharge the TASER on numerous occasions through the “chuck hole” of the cell door at Mr. Sanders. The use of the TASER was to punish and retaliate against Mr. Sanders. At approximately 6:11 pm, City of Charleston police officers arrived with Oleoresin Capsicum spray (pepper spray) and it is discharged into Mr. Sanders holding cell with no ventilation. The pepper spray was so strong, it made an officers’ nose bleed, and everyone evacuated the building – except Mr. Sanders who was stuck inside the holding cell with the pepper spray.
For the next hour, jail personnel and police officers formulate a plan on how to get Mr. Sanders out of the holding cell. Interestingly, no one knew the exact reason why he needed to be removed. The Court had not issued the involuntary hold paperwork and Mr. Sanders was not a harm to himself or anyone else. Finally, after the elected Sheriff showed up, it was determined that the jailers and officers were going to burst into the cell to try and subdue him.
At approximately 7:18 pm, nine jailers and officers rush into Mr. Sanders holding cell wearing riot gear. No verbal commands were given when they first entered. For the next eleven minutes, Mr. Sanders is beaten, TASED, and restrained. While Mr. Sanders was on the ground with multiple officers laying on top of him, the Jail Administer applied pressure to his brachial plexus for one to three minutes until he passed out and blood was coming from his mouth and the elected Sheriff’s knee was putting pressure on Mr. Sanders neck. Eyewitness accounts state the elected Sheriff was told to take his knee of Mr. Sanders’ neck at least three times, but the elected Sheriff stated “no, I’m good” and kept the pressure on his neck after Mr. Sanders was unconscious.
Emergency Medical Technicians arrived around 7:30 pm and Mr. Sanders was pronounced dead at 8:08 pm. Mr. Sanders died 10 hours after arriving at the MCDC and his death was ruled a homicide.