An inmate at the Cumberland County Jail says a guard punched him in the face and broke his nose last week, resulting in surgery and other injuries that could require treatment.

Portland police are investigating the July 7 incident for possible criminal charges against the guard, but a department spokesman said he could not answer any questions. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office released a brief account of the incident, but the sheriff said he cannot share more details or any related public records, including a video.

The guard, Officer Vinal Thompson, is on paid administrative leave and declined an interview request through a union representative.

The inmate, John Katula, described the incident in phone interviews with the Portland Press Herald. His account was more detailed but generally consistent with the one from the sheriff’s office.

“I didn’t swing on him,” Katula, 45, said. “I didn’t do anything like that.”

Meanwhile, the National Correctional Employees Union, which represents the bargaining unit at the Cumberland County Jail, has criticized the sheriff for his public statement about the incident.

“The statement casts aspersions and judgment from a subjective party,” Christopher Murphy, the union president, said in a news release Tuesday.

Katula has been incarcerated since September on $10,000 bail. A grand jury indicted him in January on felony charges for trafficking, importing and possessing methamphetamine. He is awaiting a trial date.

He said last week’s incident began when he was summoned for a random urine test. He said he had recently used the bathroom and couldn’t provide a sample. After being given water and time to provide a sample, Katula still couldn’t. He said Thompson then called him “a drug addict” and pulled up his mugshot on a computer screen for the people who were nearby receiving their medications to see. Katula said that response upset him, and he called the officer a rude name.

Katula said Thompson then told him he was going to handcuff him, so he put his hands up.

“Thompson just started smashing me in the face,” Katula said. “He was punching me in the face, three times. He was yelling, ‘Don’t resist, don’t resist.’”

Katula said he thinks he lost consciousness for 20 to 30 seconds, but he remembered going down to the ground. He also remembered another officer talking to him while he was on the ground and eventually helping him into a wheelchair. He rode to the hospital in an ambulance, and he went back there Friday for surgery on his broken nose. He said the doctor told him that he also will need MRIs on his shoulder and his knee, which are still swollen and in pain.

“My nose is just throbbing,” he said a few days after the surgery. “It’s that dull pain that doesn’t want to go away.”

Katula said two members of the Portland Police Department interviewed him Tuesday as part of their investigation. He has not seen the video of the incident, but said he was not threatening the officer or resisting the handcuffs. Still, he said he has since been transferred first to a maximum security unit and then given a penalty of 30 days in segregation.

He hopes the video gets out because he believes it will show that he was not at fault for what happened, even though it doesn’t have any audio.

“I don’t think you need voice to see what happened,” he said.

His defense lawyer has now filed a motion for his release on personal recognizance bail so he would be able to get medical care outside of the jail.

“It is counsel’s understanding that Mr. Katula will undergo significant surgical intervention for the facial injuries and may have suffered additional bodily injury as a result of the attack,” attorney Henry Griffin wrote in the motion.

Griffin also wrote that he is requesting medical records and the video of the incident, and he suggested that Katula might have grounds to pursue civil legal action. An employee at Griffin’s office said he is on vacation this week. The motion will likely be scheduled for a hearing.

Michael Waxman, a civil attorney, has filed a notice of claim with Cumberland County, a potential first step toward a lawsuit.

In an interview with the Portland Press Herald last week, Joyce said he watched the video and was “very disappointed.” He asked police to investigate and placed the guard on paid administrative leave. His office also issued a public statement with a brief description of what happened.

It said an inmate “started to create a disturbance.”

“As Officer Thompson reached out to grab the inmate, the inmate started to back up and held his hands up as if to refuse to be handcuffed,” the statement reads. “Officer Thompson immediately began to punch the inmate in the face and they both began to scuffle.”

The two went down to the floor and two steps to a lower level. Another guard intervened. The sheriff said both the inmate and the guard received medical treatment at the hospital but did not include details of their injuries.

Joyce has declined to answer further questions about the incident or the investigation. But union representatives have accused him of saying too much already.

“The whole premise of asking Portland Police Department to review is to remove subjectivity from any investigation,” Murphy, the union president, said Tuesday. “Sheriff Joyce has already found Officer Thompson guilty prior to any review.”

The release also quoted an email from Joyce. He said a prosecutor told him the public statement could be prejudicial to a future court case, and he took it down even though he did not agree.

The union did not comment on the incident itself because the sheriff has denied its request for copies of the video and any incident reports.

The sheriff’s office also denied the Portland Press Herald’s request for a copy of that video last week, saying it is considered confidential investigative material. A request for documents related to Thompson’s employment history at the jail is still pending.

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