Kan. inmate waiting for psych exam attacks deputy

The officer was hospitalized with multiple facial fractures


By Amy Renee Leiker
The Wichita Eagle
        
WICHITA, Kan. — A Sedgwick County Jail inmate who refused to go back to his cell after shower time punched a detention deputy in the face early Tuesday morning, causing multiple facial fractures and other injuries that required hospitalization and more than a dozen stitches to fix, the Sheriff's Office said in a news release Wednesday.

The inmate, Denzell L. Cooper, has been in the jail's custody since May 2, 2020. He is currently being held on rape, aggravated criminal sodomy and battery of a law enforcement officer charges, according to the news release. The rape and sodomy charges are connected to a May 1, 2020, sexual assault, court records show. Cooper landed his pending battery case for an alleged attack on two municipal court services officers on Feb. 12, according to court filings.

Neither of those cases have resolved yet. Court records show he is awaiting transport to Larned State Security Hospital, where he was ordered to have a psychiatric or psychological exam after being found incompetent to stand trial last month.

Cooper will likely face new charges over Tuesday's attack, the Sheriff's Office said.

The Sheriff's Office said in the release that the deputy, who was not identified, was trying to convince Cooper to go back to his cell "after being let out to shower" at around 2:40 a.m. Tuesday.

But Cooper "became aggressive and made threatening comments to the deputy" when the deputy gave him the orders, the release says. The deputy called for help and continued efforts to get Cooper to comply.

Cooper then "quickly approached the deputy, striking him in the face with a closed fist at least two times," the release says.

Cooper's blows knocked the deputy down onto the floor. The deputy moved away to prevent any further assault until help arrived, the release says.

Additional jail staff showed up moments later and "were able to secure the inmate in his cell," the release says.

The deputy was taken to a nearby hospital, where he received 15 stitches and other treatment for what the Sheriff's Office described as "multiple facial fractures." He was sent home afterward.

This isn't the first issue the jail has had with Cooper while he's been in custody. According to the news release, the 31-year-old "is currently on Administrative Segregation due to repeated disciplinary issues" in the jail. The Sheriff's Office did not elaborate on what exactly those issues were.

But court records show a judge found Cooper incompetent to stand trial in June and ordered a psychiatric and psychological evaluations and treatment for him at Larned State Security Hospital after his defense attorney expressed concerns over his mental state. Court records show the attorney initially requested a mental exam in April after Cooper "manifested behaviors that created doubts about his competency" including him reporting "the onset of hallucinations of a violent nature" and having "violent ideology and the desire to self-harm due to these hallucinations."

Cooper underwent a mental evaluation at Sedgwick County Comcare and was found incompetent to stand trial by Judge Kevin O'Connor on June 23, court filings say. Evaluation and possibly treatment at the Larned hospital were the next steps.

Records indicate Cooper was still awaiting transport to the Larned hospital when he allegedly punched the deputy on Tuesday. Asked when that was supposed to have occurred, Jail Administrator Col. Jared Schechter said by email that Larned "has a long backlog and will notify (the jail) when he can be sent."

Schechter said as of June 30, the jail had 25 inmates waiting to be taken to Larned for mental evaluations and reported the average wait time at 157 days. The longest wait is 400 days, he said.

In June, the state hospital let the jail send two inmates to its facility, Schechter said.

Cooper's commitment in Larned is supposed to last for up to 90 days once he is admitted, according to court filings. Prosecution of his cases is on hold until he is evaluated and deemed competent. It's unclear how long that might take.
     
(c)2021 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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