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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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They Serve, Protect, and Break Your Leg

HOUSTON (CN) - Texas jailers broke a paraplegic's leg and left him "naked and lying in a pool of his own urine" for trying to tell a guard he needed to use the bathroom, the man claims in court.

Curby Harkless sued Brazoria County, its sheriff's office and jail, on Friday in Federal Court.

Brazoria County is 40 minutes south of Houston.

Harkless says a Brazoria County sheriff's deputy arrested him during an Oct. 17 traffic stop because he had an outstanding traffic warrant. He was a passenger in the car, Harkless said, and was on deferred adjudication for possession of a controlled substance.

At the county jail, Harkless says, jailers placed him in his wheelchair in a cell with a window that looked out on the booking area.

"After a long period of time, Harkless needed to use the restroom," the complaint states. "Because of his paraplegia, Harkless must use a catheter to empty his bladder. Harkless generally carries catheters with him at all times. However, his catheter had been taken from him."

He says he became desperate to urinate and looked out the cell window.

"Harkless noticed a jailer walking by and knocked on the window and tried to indicate that he needed his catheter to use the restroom. Harkless does not know the identity of this jailer and he will be referred to herein as Jailer #1.

"In response to Harkless knocking on the window, Jailer #1 shouted at him, 'Don't knock on the m...f... window no g..d... more.'" (Ellipses in complaint.)

Harkless says after a while urine dribbled on his pants and he again banged on the window to get the guard's attention.

"Jailer #1 responded, 'Didn't I tell you not to knock on that g..d... window?' Jailer #1 then said, 'I got something for you,'" the complaint states.

Harkless says four guards stormed his cell and pushed him into a windowless cell, where they lifted him from his wheelchair and put him facedown on the ground.

The guards put knees to his face, neck and back as they yanked on his arms and legs, Harkless says.

"Harkless felt a pain in his right leg, but was powerless to do or say anything about it," the complaint states. "This continued for as long as Harkless could hold his breath when finally Harkless sputtered, 'Can't breathe.'"

Harkless pleaded to see a doctor, but the jailers said nothing, and instead of helping him, they stripped him naked, he says.

"Jailer #1 and the other jailers then left the cell, taking Harkless's clothes and wheelchair, leaving Harkless alone, naked and laying [sic] in a pool of his own urine," the complaint states.

The next morning, Harkless says, another guard brought him his urine-soaked clothes and wheelchair and he was processed out of the jail.

"A family member was waiting outside for Harkless. Upon seeing Harkless and the condition of his leg, she asked to speak to someone in the jail about what happened," the complaint states.

"She was told to wait for someone to come who could speak with her. No one came. The family member took Harkless home to change into clean clothes, then to Matagorda Regional Medical Center, where X-rays confirmed a separated spiral fracture ... of the right femur."

Harkless seeks damages for civil rights violations and wants his medical bills paid.

He is represented by Leland Irwin of Richmond.

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