Two former guards at a Lynchburg jail have been indicted on assault and battery charges after they were accused of beating an inmate at a local hospital last year.
Former Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority officers Navarone Andrew Hartman, 27, and Julius Anthony Tallant, 26, were each charged Thursday with one count of assault and battery by a special grand jury impaneled to investigate the case.
Court records show the two were taken into custody by Lynchburg police and released on unsecured bonds.
Authorities alleged the assault occurred in the emergency room at Lynchburg General Hospital on May 9, after a 30-year-old Bedford man was transported from a city jail for court-ordered medical treatment, according to court documents filed last fall in Lynchburg Circuit Court.
After the man’s arrival, multiple hospital employees told police they observed and heard him being assaulted by correctional officers behind partially closed curtains. According to a search warrant affidavit completed Sept. 11 by Det. R.G. Miller, the beating caused “substantial injuries on his face and neck.”
Assault and battery is a misdemeanor under Virginia law. If convicted, the guards could face up to a year in jail.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison declined to discuss the case Monday but confirmed her office is handling the prosecution. An attorney for Tallant declined to comment. It is unclear if Hartman has retained legal counsel.
Tim Trent, the administrator of the Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority, said both Hartman and Tallant left the jail authority before the indictments were handed up last week.
A third guard investigated in connection with the incident, identified as Cory James Hancock, was not charged in the case. Trent said investigators cleared Hancock of any wrongdoing.
Because of his injuries, the Bedford man — identified in court records as Preston Lloyd Burns — was X-rayed and examined by a forensic nurse, the search warrant states. A mugshot taken a week after the incident shows a bruise under Burns’ left eye.
Video surveillance at the hospital captured Burns entering the building “in an uninjured state” with the officers around midnight. He was placed in a hospital bay, where he was secured by leg restraints, a waist belt and handcuffs, according to the search warrant.
It is unclear if there is any recording of Burns at the time authorities said the assault occurred. Correctional officers in the region and hospital security guards are not outfitted with body cameras. The search warrant cited multiple witnesses to the incident, including “nurses, doctors, janitorial, X-ray and registration” employees for Centra Health.
Patients referred for court-ordered treatment in Lynchburg often are transported to LGH for an examination to determine if they need to be sent to another hospital for further monitoring. The court orders, commonly known as temporary detention orders, generally stem from mental health crises.
It is not clear what precipitated Burns’ court-ordered treatment. The search warrant states officials were preparing to transport him to Western State Hospital, a psychiatric treatment center in Staunton, when the incident occurred.
Jail records show Burns was arrested and booked in a Lynchburg detention center two days before he was taken to LGH. Court records show he was charged with trespassing and was taken into custody after refusing to leave LGH. The reason behind Burns’ initial visit to LGH is not clear.
Richard Chumney covers Liberty University for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.