LONOKE, Ark. – A man who was an inmate in the Lonoke County Jail back in 2019 says he was attacked by the sheriff and now wants federal officials to do something about it.
Chris Sallings, who is currently in an Idaho prison, is calling on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the potential wrongdoing.
“If I would’ve assaulted him, I definitely would’ve received charges,” he said.
Sallings was booked into the Lonoke County Jail in March of 2019 on two misdemeanor charges. During that time, a family member of Sallings’ claimed a kiosk was broken after inmates staged a fight to steal medicine in the overnight hours.
“We were searched individually, one by one,” Sallings recalled. “I want to say we were in the gym maybe a good hour before John Staley came in with a K-9 unit.”
Sallings said he did not know Staley before being booked in. The 28-year-old admits he’s been in and out of the system for years and was on parole when he got arrested again on the misdemeanors. He said the sheriff threatened to charge everyone with felonies while investigating the drugs missing from the kiosk, at which point Sallings spoke out to the sheriff.
“I popped off and told him that he wasn’t going to charge me with anything that I was in there for a misdemeanor,” Sallings said.
Surveillance video appeared to show the sheriff hit Sallings.
“He [Staley] was asking if I wanted to fight him or if I felt like hitting him,” Sallings recounts. “He continued to say more stuff, but I started to go in and out from being choked and having my head slammed against the wall.”
Last week, Staley issued a statement defending his actions.
“We were in the process of searching potentially dangerous prisoners suspected of having an improvised knife,” Staley wrote. “This prisoner was being loud and abusive and when he flinched toward me, I slammed my open hand into his upper chest/clavicle area.”
Sallings said that is not what he remembers.
“It was with a closed hand fist,” Sallings claimed. “He hit me inside the temple. I want to say on the left side of the head.”
The jail video then appears to show Staley grab Sallings with one hand and then two for about six seconds. Staley said he grabbed Salings by the shirt, but Sallings claims that was not true.
“He then grabbed me by the throat and the Adam’s apple and started choking me before he slammed my head into the wall,” Sallings said, adding that he could not breath.
Sallings said he couldn’t defend himself, fearing what the other deputies and the K-9 unit standing behind the sheriff would do.
“I kind of knew that regardless of anything I was going to do I could only make it worse on myself,” he said.
Staley has been in office since 2013 and is in the middle of a heated re-election. The sheriff claimed to have released the video when it originally happened.
“I released this video publicly years ago, and there were never any credible allegations of wrongdoing and the news media ignored it,” Staley wrote. “But, years later — at election time — it’s suddenly newsworthy. People know a last-minute smear when they see it.”
Sallings said while the video is likely being used for political reasons, he hopes someone investigates.
“It has nothing to do with what happened to me, it has to do with the election,” Sallings said.
FBI Little Rock spokesperson Connor Hagan said the agency is aware of the video and the people involved but Hagan could not confirm or deny if agents are investigating.