A surveillance camera at the Lane County Jail captured video footage of a Eugene police officer landing a flurry of punches to the face of a handcuffed drunken-driving suspect who later "reacted in shock" when an investigator showed him the footage, according to a police report.
The suspect, 36-year-old Eugene resident Shaymond Michelson, had been highly intoxicated at the time of the beating and had no recollection of it, Eugene police Sgt. Scott McKee wrote in a report detailing his criminal investigation into now-former officer Charles Caruso's actions.
A grand jury declined to indict Caruso on assault charges. But the Police Department's investigation -- launched last fall at the direction of the city police auditor's office -- helped bring an end to Caruso's brief career as a Eugene officer.
Michelson suffered facial injuries when Caruso punched him repeatedly on the night of Sept. 13, 2013. He has informed the city and the county that he intends to sue both government entities for unspecified damages.
The Register-Guard obtained police reports in the case and the jail video through public records requests.
To comply with state law, the county obscured the faces of law enforcement personnel shown in the 14-minute video, which was recorded by security cameras in the jail's secured entryway, or "sally port."
Caruso arrested Michelson after a woman reported to police that an "extremely intoxicated" Michelson had touched her and other people inappropriately at a party, and then crashed his car, according to a police report written by Caruso.
Caruso wrote that Michelson was found behind the wheel of the damaged vehicle, stopped in the middle of Fox Hollow Road in south Eugene. Michelson told Caruso that he was too drunk to stand up, and two officers were needed to drag him to a patrol vehicle after he had been handcuffed, according to Caruso's report.
Caruso wrote that, after arriving in the sally port, Michelson physically resisted being escorted into the jail. The officer said he could not support Michelson because of his size, and "used his own momentum to take him to the ground," where he continued to resist, according to the report.
McKee, meanwhile, wrote in his report that Caruso did take advantage of Michelson's momentum, but that "it is also clear that officer Caruso uses a two-handed throw and tripping maneuver in order to render him to the (concrete) ground." The move "could be reasonably expected to cause physical injury" that Caruso did not attempt to mitigate, McKee wrote.
The video shows Michelson leaning back toward Caruso before the officer throws him onto the floor and pins him down by kneeling on his throat.
McKee noted several other questionable statements in Caruso's report, saying that the video does not support Caruso's claim that Michelson resisted being turned onto his stomach after being thrown to the ground; or that Caruso struggled to hold Michelson in place before Lane County sheriff's deputy Neil Woolsey arrived at his side about 35 seconds later. Caruso's assertion that Michelson looked at Woolsey before kicking his left foot toward the deputy's face is "debatable," McKee wrote.
The video shows Michelson suddenly kicking toward Woolsey's face, at which point the deputy grabs his leg. Caruso, meanwhile, appears to react to the kick by punching Michelson in the face five or six times as the handcuffed suspect lay on the ground.
Caruso wrote that he had punched Michelson to prevent him from injuring him or Woolsey, since the officer already had struggled to overcome Michelson's resistance. McKee said the video footage "does not corroborate any such resistance on the part of Michelson at the very point when officer Caruso says it was most acute."
After the punching, other jail staff members appear, bandage Michelson's face and lead him away.
Michelson's face appears red and puffy, with a blackened right eye, in a mug shot taken when he was booked into the jail. According to McKee's report, Michelson said he went to a hospital after being released from custody the next day. Medical staff told Michelson that he hadn't suffered any concussion or broken bones, but had soft tissue damage and swelling in his head and face; neck pain, bruising and swelling; back pain; left wrist and hand pain and swelling; and abrasions, pain and lacerations on both legs, McKee's report states.
Michelson -- who, according to a breath test had a 0.14 blood-alcohol content on the night of his arrest -- told McKee that he didn't remember much about the circumstances of his arrest and had no recollection of being punched by Caruso.
McKee twice wrote in his report that Michelson "reacted with shock" while viewing the sally port video: first when Caruso threw him to the ground on the concrete parking surface and again when the officer punched him in the face repeatedly.
Michelson "said he was shocked at the behavior of officer Caruso on the jail video, but at the same time felt somewhat relieved to know the mechanisms of his personal injuries, as disturbing as they were to watch," McKee wrote.
Both Caruso and Portland attorney Chris Cournoyer, who represents Michelson in the civil case, declined to comment for this story. Eugene City Attorney Glenn Klein did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Caruso continued working as a patrol officer until Nov. 7, when he was placed on "modified duty" that included nonpatrol assignments.
Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns said Caruso's employment relationship with the city was severed in December, just one month before the officer's standard 18-month probationary period was scheduled to end. Generally, a police employee's probation may be terminated when department officials determine that he or she is "not meeting the standards of the position," Kerns said.
Michelson, meanwhile, pleaded guilty on Oct. 4 to charges of intoxicated driving, hit-and-run driving, physical harassment and attempted assault of a public safety officer. Woolsey was named as the victim of the attempted assault. The harassment charge stemmed from alleged physical contact with a woman at the birthday party where Michelson had become intoxicated.
Michelson now is participating in a standard, court-ordered diversion program offered to first-time drunken-driving offenders. But prosecutors ultimately decided against seeking to convict Michelson of the remaining charges that had been filed.
On Nov. 14, Lane County Chief Deputy District Attorney Patty Perlow took the unusual step of dismissing the other three charges after Michelson had pleaded guilty to them. Although Michelson had admitted wrongdoing, Perlow informed the court in writing that "a material element of the crimes" could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Perlow previously said in an interview with The Register-Guard that she decided to dismiss the charges after learning of the police-brutality investigation involving Caruso.
Perlow declined to specify the potential conflict that prompted her office to ask prosecutors in Douglas County to present evidence in the case to a grand jury, to determine if Caruso should be charged with assaulting Michelson. In March, the grand jury declined to indict Caruso.
Follow Jack on Twitter @JackMoranRG . Email email@example.com .