BALTIMORE — Three correctional officers have been indicted on assault and misconduct charges after one placed an inmate in an illegal choke hold, while the other two helped conceal the facts of the incident.
A Baltimore City grand jury indicted Correctional Officer II Zanel Santana, Correctional Officer Sergeant Monyette Washington, and Correctional Officer II Uchenna Okeke.
All three are employed by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) and were arrested on charges related to the assault of a detainee and Misconduct in Office.
Santana is charged with one count of First Degree Assault and two counts of Misconduct in Office. Washington and Okeke are each charged with two counts of Misconduct in Office.
If convicted, Santana faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in state prison for First Degree Assault. There is no maximum or minimum sentence for Misconduct.
It is a common law crime which carries a sentence limitation that it cannot be cruel and unusual.
DPSCS initiated and conducted the investigation of the allegation as part of their Intelligence and Investigative Division (IID).
According to the indictment, on June 14, 2019, Santana, Okeke, and Washington were on duty and working as sworn correctional officers within the DPSCS and were assigned and working at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center (BCBIC) when video surveillance captured Washington respond to the 3 North Building Location when she was informed that a detainee was refusing to return to their housing unit.
On arrival, Washington saw that the detainee was secured inside of a vestibule on the floor and was refusing to return to the designated housing unit.
The detainee was allegedly asked several times by Washington to return to the housing unit, however allegedly, the detainee refused. Okeke and Santana also responded to help Washington with the detainee.
According to the indictment and video surveillance, Santana walked behind the detainee while the detainee was sitting on the floor and started to push his knee several times into the detainee’s back.
Santana then unsuccessfully attempted to lift the detainee up, by allegedly grabbing the back of her yellow prison uniform. A few seconds later, Santana then allegedly grabbed the detainee’s neck and placed her in an unauthorized choke hold.
Santana then stood up while performing the choke hold, causing the detainee to stand up as well. In response, the detainee can be seen on the video immediately grabbing her neck and appears unable to breathe.
Santana allegedly started to move the detainee out of the vestibule while Okeke grabbed the detainee’s right arm and started to escort the detainee towards her housing unit.
At the same time, Washington can be seen observing the entire incident and following behind the detainee, Okeke, and Santana.
The indictment details that the detainee’s body and legs went limp after being placed in the choke hold by Santana and she appeared to lose consciousness.
Subsequently, Santana allegedly dragged the detainee a few more steps before coming to a brief stop to adjust himself and his grip, and then placed the detainee into another choke hold while dragging her forward.
After a few more steps of dragging the unconscious detainee, Santana let go of his hold and the detainee hit the floor directly on her face. The detainee sustained multiple facial fractures, including an orbital wall fracture and severe bruising.
As the detainee was observed lying unconscious on the ground, Santana allegedly grabbed her prison uniform while Okeke grabbed her right arm and together they allegedly dragged the unconscious detainee, whose body was still lying on the concrete floor, through the other side of the room.
Santana, Okeke, and Washington all submitted signed DPSCS official Use of Force reports that were each allegedly written to conceal the facts that the detainee was placed in a choke hold by Santana; that the detainee had become unconscious as a result of the choke hold; that Santana used unauthorized and excessive force against the detainee; and, that Santana had unjustifiably committed an illegal assault of the detainee.
State’s Attorney Mosby commended the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for their work in the investigation and also thanked Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Hudak who is prosecuting the case.