From arrested to incarcerated to injured: What happened to James Barton?

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James Barton, left, with his brother Jeffrey Lucero, who has questions about Barton’s treatment and injuries sustained sometime between his brother’s arrest on June 14 by Manchester police and his release from Valley Street jail on June 19.

MANCHESTER, NH — When James Barton arrived at the Elliot Hospital by ambulance on June 19 it was with an “altered mental status” and as a victim of an assault, according to his medical records.

Medical personnel noted that “Apparently, he was released from jail without any injuries noted around noontime today.”  

X-rays would show that Barton had three fractured ribs, a fractured back, a lacerated kidney causing internal bleeding, swelling around both eyes and numerous cuts to his arms.  He was hospitalized for three days.

He was in the Valley Street jail six days prior to his hospitalization and three times was in the custody of Manchester police during that time period.

Neither police nor jail officials ever took him to the hospital for medical treatment nor did anyone seek mental health treatment for him.

Jeffrey Lucero says he wants to know what happened to his brother, where his injuries were incurred, and why James was not evaluated for mental health status.

“I just went through the incident reports, I didn’t realize there were so many.  I read a lot of explanations for self-harm, yet the nurses consistently give him a clean bill of health the many times they assess him,” Lucero said.

Hillsborough County House of Corrections Superintendent David Dionne, who provided a 147-page report documenting Barton’s stay at the jail, said he did act up at the jail and twice was put in a restraint chair for his own safety until he calmed down.

“I don’t know what happened to him but I don’t see that it happened here,” he said.  Dionne said he could have been injured when he was in police custody or on the streets after his release.  The cuts on his arm, he conceded, could be from handcuffs but he said they also could be injuries he sustained from living on the street. 

Marks on James Barton’s wrists could be consistent with marks from handcuffs, said Valley Street Jail Superintendent David Dionne, or could be from “living on the street.” Photo/Pat Grossmith

Police officer Beau J. Bernard, in a June 18 affidavit on file in 9th Circuit – District Division – Manchester wrote that officers were advised at the jail that Barton had been giving the correctional officers a really difficult time and had to be restrained twice in a “chair” during the previous couple of days.  Barton, when brought to the processing area of the jail in shackles and handcuffs that day, had only “a suicide prevention blanket over him and no other clothing as he was being very loud and carrying on with the seven correctional officers who assisted him down to us,”  Bernard wrote.

He was given his clothes and brought over to the officers.  “Get me out of here,” he continued yelling as Bernard wrote, his “face was bruised.”  Police were unable to book him that day, because he again was acting out, and he was returned to the jail.

“Of course, he was yelling ‘get me out of here.’  He was fearing for his life,” said Lucero, 45, of Manchester.  

“In another report he complies with the first part of the guards’ orders by sitting in the center of the cell and then when one restraint is placed on one hand he then begins to be aggressive and assaultive to the point where he is restrained again and again. Except no injuries were ever reported from their use of force, only explained away when he was harming himself in the most violent way possible,” Lucero said. “By hitting his nose and face multiple time against a toilet bowl. Or trying to take out his own teeth.”
Lucero says the description of his brother’s behavior is inconsistent with the James he knows.
“I hear a whole lot of words that manipulate the truth and point the problem back to James and behavior that is so inconsistent that it begs the question … at which point should he have been restrained for his own safety? Instead, they didn’t treat him as though he was a mental patient having a serious break but rather a traditional inmate simply defying the rules of the prison and fighting back against guards that had to use just enough force to restain him. Yet, not once enough force to cause injuries as the nurses cleared multiple times throughout his stay,” Lucero said.

Rik Cornell, vice president of community relations for the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, said,  “All of this is really surprising to me.”  Cornell, speaking in general terms and not to Barton’s case, said the center has a consulting agreement with the jail when it comes to inmates with mental health issues.  He said they have a “great relationship” and are contacted routinely.

While Barton says he smoked spice the day he was arrested, a urine test taken at the jail on June 16 showed no drugs in his system and blood tests taken at the Elliot also tested negative for any drugs.

On the record: What happened to James Barton

James Barton, six days after his release on June 19 from Valley Street Jail.

Barton was a homeless drug addict and also a convicted sex offender when he was arrested on June 14. He was in state prison for four years for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in 2009.  He was 29 and his brother said the relationship was consensual although under state law a 15-year-old cannot give consent. 

Heather Hamel, public information officer for the Manchester Police Department, said the day Barton was arrested an officer saw him passed out, sitting up, on a Pine Street sidewalk near the homeless shelter.  The officer approached him but got no response.  Witnesses said Barton had been yelling at the intersection just before the officer arrived.

A friend of Barton’s helped him to stand and assisted him in walking.  Nothing in the report indicates Barton was on spice, Hamel wrote in an email. 

Police arrested him on electronic bench warrants charging him with failing to appear in court on charges he hadn’t paid $136 in fines for having a non-inspected vehicle and not changing his address on his license.  At the time of his arrest, he said he had 26 cents in his pocket although a jail inventory of his belongings said he had 31 cents.

Barton doesn’t remember much about what happened over those six days.  He says he had just smoked spice when he was arrested and was out-of-control when officers tried to arrest him.  After they cuffed him and took him to the station, he still was belligerent and uncooperative so police took him to the jail without booking him.

James Barton lifts his shirt to show his ribs protruding on his left side during an interview six days after his release from Valley Street Jail. He was found to have two broken ribs. Photo/Pat Grossmith

On June 15, he was seen by medical personnel at the jail who noted he had a 1/2-inch laceration on his nose, a three-inch abrasion on his left cheek and swelling above and below both eyes, according to incident reports from the jail.  Barton told correctional officers his bruised face was because of his interaction with police. (Police ultimately charged him with government obstruction for acting out when being booked.)

Hamel said officers did have to bring him to the ground when he was difficult in booking the first time. That was how they managed to get handcuffs on him, she said. 

“But this would not cause the injuries you describe,” she said in an email. 

Police Chief Carlo Capano pointed out that the jail will not accept anyone until they are medically cleared.

At the jail, Barton refused to participate in his video-arraignment and again acted out and twice ended up tied to a restraint chair and placed on suicide watches.

“I was just freaking out in the jail,” he said, attributing that to the drug.  Pacing in the cell, Barton said he remembers having his hands up next to his head, with his index fingers pointing up.  He said he was trying to figure everything out.

He thinks the correctional officers thought he was “flipping them off.” They came into his cell and he alleges they started beating him.

According to a jail incident report dated June 15, at 6:45 p.m., correctional officers wrote that they saw him repeatedly banging his head against the cell wall and on the corner of his bed.  Officers asked him to come to the door but  Barton, Sgt. Joshua Jordan wrote, took a three-point stance and yelled, “Let’s go you mother*******.  I’m ready for you.” He was sprayed in the face with pepper spray and Barton dove to the floor on his stomach and covered his face and hands with his shirt.

Again, he was asked to come to the door so he could be taken to showers and washed off.  Barton shouted a profanity, protesting that he couldn’t see. Four correctional officers entered the cell and when Barton attempted to get up, Jordan pinned him to the floor.  Barton by then had his hands tucked under himself and flailed about as officers tried to put him in cuffs.

‘Three knee strikes to inmate’s torso,’ and the chair

Correctional officer Rocco Frederico used “three knee strikes to inmate’s torso and was able to gain control of inmates’ arms.”  Barton was cuffed and shackled.  The bridge of his nose was bleeding from the prior cut, the correctional officers said.   He was taken to showers to wash off the pepper spray, then to another cell and placed in a restraint chair.  It was 7 p.m. He was released from it at 10:45 p.m. after he calmed down.

“I’m sorry man. That shit just makes my skin crawl.  You won’t have any more problems from me,” he said, according to the incident reports.

Barton alleges the correctional officers were careful to assault him on the side of the cell where the toilet and sink are located because, he said, there are no cameras positioned there.

He alleges the beatings continued daily except on the night shift and the last day because he said he positioned his bed to block the door.

And, he said, he wasn’t beaten when they tied him twice to the “black chair” because, he said, he thinks there are cameras there.  He said both supervisors, who wear white shirts, and correctional officers, who wear brown shirts, participated in the alleged assaults.  Barton said he doesn’t remember a lot of what happened but an inmate in a cell near his told him that the officers allegedly beat him for 45 minutes straight the first time.   Not all of the COs assaulted him, he said.

On June 17, a naked Barton again acted out when correctional officers tried to take him out of his cell to be video arraigned.  A guard told him to put on a safety smock but Barton wouldn’t.  Correctional officer Anthony Vissa wrote that Barton seemed confused when he was told to do that. Barton knelt down in the middle of the cell, facing the wall, and the guards entered and began to handcuff him. He resisted, pulled away and began kicking.  He was pepper-sprayed again.

Ultimately, guards pushed him to the floor and handcuffed him.  Guards helped him stand up and took him to the showers to be decontaminated under running water for two minutes.  He was bleeding from a “pre-existing injury to his nose,” Sgt. William McBournie wrote.  The cell was cleaned with bleach.

He was moved to another cell and put in a restraint chair and seen by a nurse.

One guard wrote that on June 18 at 10:10 a.m., Barton was pacing in his cell, continuously rambling unintelligently.  The previous abrasion to the right side of his face was bleeding slightly.  Later, he was prone on the cell floor, moving his head back and forth.  He was medically assessed by a nurse and about noon was taken to be video arraigned 

After, police officers arrived to take him to the station to again try to book him. According to an incident report, Barton refused to remove his clothes to put on a safety smock.  He was being taken from the property room when Barton used his left leg to push back off the bench “against staff.”

Two guards pinned him to a wall while a third put leg restraints on him.  A nurse assessed him and no new injuries were observed, according to the report.  

That’s when the police officer noted that Barton had a bruised face.  Again, police were unable to book Barton and he remained in the jail until June 19 when he finally was released to police and booked at the station.

He then left the police station, walked to Cumberland Farms on Hanover Street and then headed to the homeless shelter on Manchester Street.

James Barton on the mend and sober, photo taken July 11. Photo/Pat Grossmith

Untreated mental health issue?

Lucero received a call from Barton’s girlfriend around 3 p.m.  Barton was in a bad way, Melissa Weinwright said.  He was walking in and out of the street near the shelter, barefoot and shirtless.  He was incoherent and rambling, unable to hold a normal conversation. Lucero wasn’t in the city at the time but went to his brother soon after.   Barton wouldn’t get in his car and Lucero left to go to the rooming house and then returned again.  He got his brother to calm down and called 911.

Soon firefighters, an AMR ambulance and police officers arrived, the same two who had arrested him. 

He arrived at the Elliot at 5:21 p.m. where they determined he had three fractured ribs, a fractured back, a lacerated kidney causing internal bleeding, swelling around both eyes and numerous cuts to his arms.  He was hospitalized for three days

Lucero said the officers made it a point to say that his brother was fine when he left the station, and at the hospital, they told medical personnel that Barton was on spice.  Medical tests indicated that was not true.

“What I think happened is that he had a psychotic break because of what happened at the jail,” said Lucero, who has been a counselor, working with people with mental health issues.  He also worked a couple of months at the New Horizons shelter but left because he felt it was too authoritarian.  He now works for Waypoint, formerly Child and Family Services. 

Lucero is angry that the jail covered his brother in a blanket because he believes that was to hide his injuries.  And no one called him when police released him.  Documents provided by the jail show that Lucero never listed any family member for emergency contact.

Lucero says his brother is following up on his medical and mental health care a CMC’s Healthcare for the Homeless, located in the basement of New Horizon’s shelter. As for Barton, he is recovering from his injuries and says he is never going back to Valley Street again and is keeping away from drugs.

“In the end,” says Lucero, “I am appalled at the guards’ behavior and actions obviously, but the nurses at that facility are abusing their own power and committing the ultimate tragedy by ignoring their commitment and oath to support and aid inmates in need of medical attention.”

Contact reporter Pat Grossmith at pgrossmith@gmail.com