A 24-year-old man in detention at the Downtown Detention Center for misdemeanor theft charges is now facing felony assault charges after allegedly attacking three Denver Sheriff Deputies who attempted to assist him Tuesday after he showed signs he was trying to hurt himself.
Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman said Wednesday Shyheem Temple is being charged with three felony counts of second-degree assault to a peace officer. Temple was in custody awaiting a court appearance and was being held on a $100 bond for shoplifting. Temple is being charged by Denver Police.
The incident highlights both the challenges deputies face at the detention center and the kind of mental health concerns some inmates may exhibit after being detained. Firman said his staff attempted to keep Temple safe from harming himself.
“This was an individual who came in clearly in crisis,” Firman said. “We don’t know if it was mental health issues or substance use issues, or a combination of both.”
Firman said at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, deputies in the intake area were made aware of an inmate in an observation cell who was trying to hurt himself by banging his head on the doors and walls while suggesting he wanted to kill himself. The deputies attempted to “de-escalate the situation” and get Temple into a restraint chair.
The deputies believed Temple was being cooperative before he started fighting the deputies.
“In the course of that struggle and trying to get him restrained, we had three deputies that were injured,” Firman said. Two deputies struck their heads while a third deputy had a wrist injury; all three were sent to Denver Health and released. “All three deputies are at home now. We’ll be working with them to get them back to full duty as soon as we can.”
There are also concerns about staffing, which Firman said “is not unique to Denver.” The department currently has 53 vacancies, though there’s currently 31 recruits in the current academy that will bring that number down to 22 once they graduated in October, according to a Sheriff Department spokesperson.
Denver Sheriff Lodge 27, the union representing Denver Sheriff Deputies, took to Twitter to criticize the city for not doing enough to protect deputies.
“When is the mayor of Denver, executive director of safety going to stand up and be leaders. The Sheriff department has a beleaguered sheriff. Chaos rules both jails and this Sheriff was coined the ‘change agent’ by the mayor when he hired him. So much for change,” the tweet read.
Firman on Wednesday shared some stats on inmate-involved assaults compiled by the department. Compared to last year during the same time span, the department has had similar numbers: He said as of July 21, the Denver Sheriffs had 30 reported assaults to staff that results in physical injuries (not including this week’s incidents) compared to 33 reported assaults resulting in physical injury to staff in 2017. Two resulted in deputies being taken to a hospital during that time span this year, while four incidents last year resulted in deputies being taken to hospitals, Firman said.
“Of course, no assaults are acceptable and we’re going to continue to work to identify where those assaults are occurring and how we might go about providing additional tools and training to our staff to reduce to the extent that possible,” Firman said.
He added: “I think it’s important that the community understands the incredible work that this staff does under the situations that we ask them to do it.”
Over the past few years, Firman said the department has additional training for its deputies for situations like the one that arose this week. He said staff has had 40 hours of crisis intervention training and 10 hours of mental health first-aid. The training is done to ensure the safety of both deputies and inmates, he added.
The Sheriff Department will conduct its own probe. Communications director Daria Serna said “all incidents are reviewed internally to ensure that policy was followed and to improve upon our processes.