COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. — Misty Rodriguez went inside the Cocke County Jail for a violation of probation.
She left with a missing tooth, bruises and a head injury.
"When I got there, everybody was really nice," she said. "Next thing I know, he picks me up, carries me down the hall and absolutely throws me into the cell."
An incident report from the Cocke County Sheriff's Office said then 21-year-old Bryson Hance was serving a warrant on Rodriguez when she became "more upset, got loud and questioned what the warrant was pertaining to."
Records and security footage show the verbal argument escalated when Hance began to "shout and cuss" at Rodriguez. He "lifted her up and carried her down the hall... then shoved Rodriguez through the cell door causing her to fall approximately twelve feet hitting her head and sustaining several bruises on her body."
Rodriguez also lost a tooth.
"The jail is not very safe," she said. "It's just a horrible situation."
In February 2022, CCSO said Hance was hired the month before as a court security officer but had previously worked in the detention center. The department said he was charged with assault and fired from CCSO.
On Jan. 16, Sheriff C.J. Ball said the department cannot comment on the case or detention conditions because of pending litigation and potential lawsuits.
"I can say this incident occurred prior to me taking office and we have changed policies and training scopes in our jail facilities," he said. "The jail is overcrowded and has been for several years other than when COVID started. We average 160 inmates a day."
He said the county mayor is working with commissioners to better the facility. On Jan. 24, Sheriff Ball emailed 10News again.
"Employee update. I can say that out of 24 employees that we have, we currently have 2 available positions and are in the hiring process of these now," he said. "The jail is overcrowded, however the inmates are a priority [and] their safety and we will do everything in accordance with law and TCI recommendations to make sure they are safe and our employees are safe."
The Cocke County Jail hasn't passed a Tennessee Corrections Institute certification since 2017. Tennessee Department of Correction records shows it was inspected in May 2022, as well as July 2022.
"The fact that Miss Rodriguez went into the jail and was manhandled and was picked up and thrown across the room, and her teeth busted, injuries sustained. And she just laid there. That is unacceptable," said Rodriguez's attorney.
However, Rodriguez said she believes something similar can happen again. According to state records, the jail was at 147% capacity at the time Rodriguez was assaulted.
"I know several that have been beat when they went in," she said. "It's a bad situation."
Rodriguez said her experience highlights the dangers of the problems inside the Cocke County Jail. She said that even though her charges are gone, she still wants accountability.
"Those prisoners are people too. Just because they're in jail does not mean they deserve that," she said. "I would like to see things change for them."
The Cocke County Sheriff's Office released several statements about the incident involving Rodriguez and its jail. Those statements are available below.
Original Statement February 12, 2022:
Good evening. I have attached the arrest and incident reports of an employee that was terminated. Bryson Hance was hired in January as a court security officer but had previously worked in the detention center. Mr. Hance was on new hire probation and after the administration was notified of an incident that took place in the jail on Wednesday, February 9th, 2022, the employee was charged with assault and terminated from the Cocke County Sheriff's Office. The investigation is still ongoing and no other information will be released at this time. The Cocke County Sheriff's Office investigates all cases and complaints as they are received.
Statement January 16, 2023:
Unfortunately we cannot comment on anything about this case or detention conditions at this time. From what I know, the case is still pending against the terminated employee and the alleged victim has threatened a lawsuit. Anytime litigation and criminal cases are possible, we cannot comment until it is resolved. I’ll be more than glad to discuss once everything is cleared up.
I can say this incident occurred prior to me taking office and we have changed policies and training scopes in our jail facilities. This is changes that has been made since I took office to help with our jail population. The jail is overcrowded and has been for several years other than when covid started. We average 160 inmates a day. Our county mayor is working along side the county commission to work on something to better the facility. He will address that as he gets his facts together.
Statement January 24, 2023
Employee update. I can say that out of 24 employees that we have, we currently have 2 available positions and are in the hiring process of these now. You ask the question about safe conditions inside the jail. This is something that can be answered as well. The jail is overcrowded, however the inmates are a priority in their safety and we will do everything in accordance with law and TCI recommendations to make sure they are safe and our employees are safe.