(CN) – A former detention officer at the Charleston County jail in South Carolina claims in court he was made the scapegoat for a 2016 jailhouse assault on convicted church gunman Dylann Roof and later libeled by the local daily newspaper.
At the time of the assault, Roof was awaiting trial at the jail for the murder of nine church goers during a Bible Study class at the Emanuel AME Church on June 15, 2015.
On Aug. 4, 2016, inmate Dwayne Stafford escaped his cell and punched Roof as the latter man made his way to a jail shower.
In a federal complaint filed in Charleston on Wednesday, Christopher Murray says he was not on duty when the incident occurred, but was one of four jail employees questioned during an inquiry into the security lapse that allowed it to happen.
Murray says he even submitted to a polygraph, and that the results showed he was telling the truth about being off-duty at the time.
Nevertheless, he says, he was fired on Aug. 23, 2016, for not manually checking the lock on Stafford’s cell after the computer system displayed all cells as locked, and for the prior policy violation.
Murray says he appealed his case to Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas, a defendant in the case, and was allowed to resign rather than be fired.
He goes on to claim that the other deputies questioned, two of whom where white (Murray is black), were not punished for no adequately checking the cell doors.
Murray says that on Feb. 4, 2017, the defendant Post & Courier newspaper published an article about the incident, mentioning him by name, implying his alleged complacency led to the assault, and that he was fired as a result.
Murray says the story amounted to disparagement and defamation, and that it compounded his inability to find work in law enforcement since his resignation.
He also says Lucas and co-defendant James Cannon made defamatory statements to the press regarding his termination due to a “fatal mistake” in the assault on Roof.
Murray seeks unspecified damages. He is represented by J. Lewis Cromer of Columbia, South Carolina.
Representatives of Charleston County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
Dylann Roof was convicted of 33 federal counts stemming from the shooting and sentenced to death. Last month he was transferred to the federal death row in Indiana to await execution.