Federal investigators probing Atrium, sheriff’s office after assault on teen
LINCOLNTON, N.C. (WBTV) – The December assault of a 16-year-old boy outside of an emergency room in Lincoln County is under investigation by the FBI and US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.
WBTV first reported in February the incident that took place on December 8, 2019 when Jessica Long took her son, Hayden, to the emergency room at Atrium Health-Lincolnton. At the time, Long thought her son was experiencing a mental health emergency.
Long went into the ER to get help from a security guard to get her son inside. Instead of getting him in the hospital to get help, video of the incident shows, a guard assaulted Hayden Long, shoved him out of his flip flops and then pushed him to the ground.
The guard then drew his taser before Long jumped in between the guard and her son. Shortly after that, a second hospital security guard arrived on scene.
Next, the video shows Hayden Long walking away—back in the direction of his mother’s car—when the second guard jumped on top of him from behind and tackled him to the ground. Once on the ground, the video shows both guards on top of the boy, who is shocked with a taser twice. The video shows Hayden Long bleeding from the mouth after being tackled.
Eventually, deputies with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene and the guards got off the boy. After he was lifted up, Hayden Long spit up blood in the direction of a sheriff’s deputy, who responds by punching him in the face twice while the boy’s hands were cuffed behind his back.
Both hospital officials and Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam defended the actions of the guards and the deputy that punched the boy, Justin Polson.
“Based on the events—and you saw in the video—I would say they did the best that they could under the circumstances,” Atrium Nurse Executive Maureen Swick, who oversees hospital security, told WBTV in February.
Beam, the sheriff, denied Polson punched the boy, despite the fact that it was captured on video.
“All I saw was once and he was pushing him back away,” Beam told a WBTV reporter in February of what he saw on the video.
“When you watch the video, you don’t think your deputy punched the child in the face twice?” a reporter asked.
“No. He did not punch him in the face,” Beam said.
FULL INTERVIEW: Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam on teen assaulted outside ER
Polson left the sheriff’s office after the video became public. But documents obtained by WBTV suggest Beam is taking steps to re-hire Polson, including asking the North Carolina Sheriff’s Standards Commission to hold a probable cause hearing as to whether Polson was disqualified from serving as a deputy. A letter sent by the commission to Beam said Polson had been cleared of wrongdoing at a hearing in mid-June.
But Polson’s actions are under investigation by the FBI and US Attorney’s Office, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation.
Both Jessica and Hayden Long have been interviewed by agents as part of the investigation, WBTV has learned.
And a lawyer for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office told a lawyer for WBTV that his office had received a federal subpoena. The lawyer, Wesley Deaton, refused to produce the letter in response to a public records request, though, saying the subpoena was a personnel record.
Federal subpoenas issued to state and local governments in North Carolina have been considered public record since the federal investigation into then-House Speaker Jim Black, who produced a set of federal subpoenas received by his office after being sued under the Public Records Act and receiving an opinion from the North Carolina Attorney General that such a record is public.
A spokesman for Beam has not responded to multiple messages sent over several days seeking comment for this story.
In an email Tuesday afternoon, sent in response to questions about the investigation, an Atrium spokesman said the hospital is cooperating with the US Attorney’s Office.
“We have been contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and are cooperating with them fully,” spokesman Dan Fogleman said. “Out of respect for the process, it would be inappropriate for us to speculate or comment on any ongoing investigation.”
Fogleman did not immediately respond to a follow-up question seeking clarification as to whether the hospital received a subpoena or other documents from federal authorities, which would be public under the state’s public records law. WBTV has requested any such records.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that a hospital spokesman confirmed Atrium was cooperating with federal prosecutors but did not confirm the ongoing investigation.
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