SIDNEY — A Shelby County Jail inmate is in critical condition in Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton following a fight at the jail, Friday morning, Jan. 19.
James Richards, of Sidney, was transported by CareFlight ground service Friday morning after initially being taken by Sidney Fire and Rescue to Wilson Health.
According to Chief Deputy James R. Frye, of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Richards was beaten by another inmate, Peter Stokes, of Sidney, when a verbal argument escalated to a fight.
Richards had been on the phone in the day room of his pod, Frye said in describing the sequence of events.
There are seven pods in the men’s wing of the jail. Cells circle a day room in each pod. Prisoners are assigned to pods based on the classifications of their offenses.
“If they’re classified as violent, we wouldn’t put them in a pod with non-violent offenders,” Frye told the Sidney Daily News.
Richards was in a pod in which prisoners could enter and leave their cells for the day room at will.
The pods form a U-shape around the central control area manned by corrections officers who can see on video screens the activities in the pods and cells. Between the control area and each day room is an entryway called a vestibule.
“You have to go through two doors to get from the control area to the pod, one at each end of the vestibule,” Frye said.
Richards was talking in a very loud voice on the phone, Frye said. Stokes, also in the day room, went over to Richards several times to ask him to quiet down.
When the phone call ended, Richards used an intercom to ask to be let into the vestibule. The correction officers unlocked the door remotely, but instead of going into the vestibule, Richards went to Stokes and began yelling at him.
Stokes went at Richards, and the weight of the two of them pushed open the vestibule door, sending them both into the vestibule. Stokes hit Richards, and Richards fell to the ground, hitting his head. He got into a sitting position on the floor, and Stokes “punched him three or four times,” Frye said.
By then, six corrections officers had converged on the fight and got the men separated and within seconds, four sheriff’s deputies were there, too.
“By the time we got there, the corrections officers had everything under control,” Frye said.
The whole incident took just 32 seconds, according to the sheriff’s office video.
Stokes was taken into custody and medical aid was rendered to Richards.
“Sidney Fire and Rescue responded within minutes,” Frye said. “When I got to the hospital, the doctor had already called CareFlight, but they were grounded. They could not fly. So they sent the ground unit.”
At Miami Valley Hospital, Richards was listed in critical condition.
“We’ve been in contact with Richards’s family and are monitoring his status,” Frye said.
A full investigation is ongoing and charges against Stokes are pending.
Stokes has been jailed since November 2018 on a charge of failure to provide a change of address. He is a registered sex offender. Richards was jailed earlier this month on a felony charge of domestic violence.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.