The Justice Department announced Wednesday that two former White River Juvenile Detention Center supervisors, Captain Peggy Kendrick, 43, and Lieutenant Dennis Fuller, 40, pleaded guilty to assaulting juvenile inmates.
Kendrick also pleaded guilty to assaulting a sixteen-year-old girl using pepper spray, and for obstructing justice by falsifying an incident report about that assault.
According to the guilty pleas, Kendrick, Fuller, and other unnamed former officers assaulted and physically punished juvenile detainees who posed no threat, by means that included spraying them in the face with pepper spray.
In some instances, they then shut the compliant juveniles in their cells after pepper spraying them to “let them cook,” rather than immediately decontaminating them. Kendrick also encouraged the juvenile detention officers who unjustifiably assaulted juveniles to falsify their incident reports to cover up the assaults.
“Corrections officers who use excessive force against inmates in their custody violate the Constitution,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting officers who break the public trust in this way.”
“When correction officers violate laws and the Constitution, they will be prosecuted. There is no exception,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Patrick C. Harris for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “I understand the difficult job they have, but that is not an excuse for assaulting a juvenile and obstructing an investigation. In fact, there is no excuse for that. That is a crime and we will prosecute the criminals.”
“We at the FBI are appalled at what occurred to these minors,” said Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch with the FBI Field Office in Little Rock, Arkansas. “Along with our partners at the Justice Department, we are steadfast in our commitment to investigate and punish those responsible for these incomprehensible actions.”
Kendrick faces up to 40 years in prison; Fuller faces 10 years in prison.