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Teen paralyzed after fight in juvenile detention center sues Franklin County employees

15 year old Damarion Allen is seen laying on the floor of the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center after fighting with another detainee. Allen was paralyzed because of this fight.
Courtesy of Cooper-Elliott Law Firm
15 year old Damarion Allen is seen laying on the floor of the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center after fighting with another detainee. Allen was paralyzed because of this fight and is suing the center.

A 15-year-old boy who was paralyzed after a fight with another detainee at the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center is suing several Franklin County employees.

Damarion Allen and his mother, Mary Washington, allege these employees failed to prevent the fight and their actions exacerbated his injuries. The lawsuit said Allen was in the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center on May 7 of this year, when he fought with another male detainee that he had already fought with a week before.

On surveillance camera footage, Allen and the other detainee are seen approaching each other in a common space. The other juvenile then throws a punch at Allen. Allen quickly ducks and wraps his arms around the other boy. Allen picks up the boy and then slams him to the ground, but hits his own head on the floor doing so.

A guard seen in view of the camera does not intervene until Allen is already on the ground. Allen remained on the ground as another guard detained the other boy. The other boy kicked Allen in the head as this happened.

The guards dragged Allen's limp body down steps, dropped him face first and left him lying over a concrete bunk. The guards ask Allen if he can walk and he says he can't.

One staff member insists he can walk and says “Get him in his room no matter what it takes. We need to use force," as Allen is dragged back into the room.

Allen's attorney, Kaela King, with the Cooper-Elliott law firm, said the guards actions after the fight likely exacerbated his injuries, but the guards could have prevented this in the first place by keeping the boys separated.

The lawsuit said a court medical order was violated. The order was supposed to keep Allen in isolation until he was transferred on May 10.

"The center staff didn't keep them separate. And in fact, they were in rooms next door to each other. So the center allowed the circumstances for these two boys to interact again," King said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the staff did not follow first aid training.

"Damarion was clearly injured in this incident. It's so obvious in the video, he's laying limp on the floor. He can't move. And the staff just recklessly disregarded their training and common sense, which says you don't move someone who was showing that they might have a spinal injury," King said.

The five staff members named in the lawsuit are Latashia Lewis, Talia Sumney, David Jenkins, Luke Edo and Kwaku Ofori. The documents also lists several other unnamed people who could be added to the lawsuit as the case persists.

The Franklin County Prosecutor's Office is representing the defendants and declined to comment.

King said Washington and Allen are seeking damages to help with medical care, basic care needs and attorney's fees.

"They don't have a wheelchair accessible vehicle. They don't have a wheelchair that accommodates in their shower. Even things like accessible silverware are not provided through insurance. And these costs are really adding up for the family," she said.

King said the two are also hoping to prevent this from happening to other children at the facility.

"So we want to make sure that the staff are held accountable so that, you know, if the center needs to change its internal policies, the way it trains people, the way it supervises so that, you know, this sort of thing will never happen again," King said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.