Racial tensions continue to stir in the city of Jasper after two white Jasper Police Department officers were fired Monday, June 3, after using excessive force against Keyarika “Shea” Diggles, a 25-year-old African-American woman. Jasper City Council fired the officers in a unanimous vote, according to Jasper District 1 Councilman Alton Scott.
“They used excessive force and unprofessional conduct,” Scott said. “That kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Scott said that all members of council were in agreement that Officers Ricky Grissom and Ryan Cunningham should be terminated. He also added that the Jasper Police Department “probably needs a makeover from head to toe.”
According to Bernsen Law Firm attorney Cade Bernsen, who represents Diggles, Grissom and Cunningham arrested Diggles at her home around 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning, May 5, for an unpaid ticket that Bernsen said the Jasper Police Department would tell him little to nothing about.
“We still don’t know what kind of ticket it was,” Bernsen said. “It’s a mystery, and we don’t actually know if they had a warrant for her arrest. They won’t provide any of that information to us.”
Bernsen said that after Diggles was taken to the station, she made a phone call to her mother to ask for money to bail her out of jail. The video, which surfaced nearly a month later due to the actions of a whistleblower, according to Bernsen, shows Grissom hanging up the phone, aggravating Diggles.
“She’s frustrated because she’s trying to pay the ticket and get out of jail,” Bernsen said.
An exchange of words between Grissom and Diggles then ensues. It is unclear what was said, however, because the video does not contain audio, which Bernsen said he believes was purposely cut out before the video was leaked. After the two exchange words, Grissom pushes Diggles into the wall and appears to call over Cunningham, who grabs Diggles by the hair and slams her face into the processing counter. Cunningham then throws Diggles to the ground and handcuffs her, Bernsen said. Cunningham tries to drag her by her ankle when Diggles’ shoe comes off, sending the officer falling backward onto his buttocks and into the hall. He then returns to Diggles and drags her by the lower extremity — with Diggles sitting in an upright position, hands cuffed behind her back — to a dark jail cell. With Dispatcher Linsey Davenport holding the door open to the cell, Cunningham and Grissom pick Diggles up and place her into the cell.
“She said it was a nightmare and that she was afraid for her life. She was in that cell lying on the floor handcuffed for approximately four hours without medical treatment,” Bernsen said. “To add insult to injury and in an effort to cover up their tracks, they charged her with resisting arrest.”
June 3, Jasper County District Attorney Steve Hollis dismissed the resisting arrest charges against Diggles, according to Bernsen.
Bernsen said that he believes the city buried the story and the video in advance of the May 11 mayoral election in which Mayor Mike Lout was re-elected.
“City officials … the mayor … they knew about that video,” he said. “The Jasper Police Department is absolutely corrupt and cannot be trusted. It’s my belief that they purposely buried that story because they knew it could hurt the mayor.”
Bernsen said that Diggles has filed charges against the two officers.
Calls to the Jasper Police Department were not returned as of press time.
Jasper P.D. dispatcher
June 5, Linsey Davenport, the Jasper Police Department dispatcher seen holding the door open for Grissom and Cunningham in the excessive force incident involving Diggles, was arrested on charges of assault family violence, according to a Jasper County Sheriff’s Office press release. Davenport is accused of attacking her fiancé, who Cade Bernsen, Diggles’ attorney, said was Ryan Cunningham, one of the police officers involved in the Diggles excessive force incident.
“She beat up Cunningham and put him in the hospital,” Bernsen said.
Sheriff Mitchel Newman stated in the press release that on Wednesday morning, June 5, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from a 12-year-old girl that her mother was assaulting her stepfather. Deputies arrived on the scene and placed Davenport under arrest. Davenport resisted arrest, according to the press release, and was transported to the Jasper County Jail and released to jail staff. Davenport was arraigned by Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Mike Smith and received a $2,000 bond for the assault family violence charge and a $2,000 bond on the resisting arrest charge. She was released from the Jasper County Jail after posting bond.