PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A former Hampton Roads Regional Jail correctional officer accused of strangling a mentally ill inmate to the point of unconsciousness was granted bond on Tuesday.
Dale Prodo Barnes was indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 3 and charged with malicious wounding and strangulation. The charges stemmed from an incident that happened on Jan. 9, 2018, in which a mentally ill inmate named Skyler Peacock accused Barnes of attacking him as he was trying to get his pills.
Barnes was originally charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in November in connection to the same incident. Those charges were withdrawn in court in December.
Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Joel Crowe granted Barnes a $10,000 secured bond, citing the correctional officer’s long history of community service and accolades for his work in security.
Defense attorney Matthew Morris said the altercation between Barnes and Peacock happened after the inmate created a disturbance in a jail pod while waiting in line for his medication.
Morris said Peacock was “causing trouble” by touching other inmates and cussing. Barnes warned Peacock to stop thee times before telling the inmate to go back to his cell and wait there to get his pills.
Peacock refused to go back to his cell. Instead, he stood at the top of a set of stairs. When Barnes climbed the stairs and approached him, Peacock threatened to throw himself and the correctional officer down the stairs, Morris said.
That’s when Barnes got on top of him and put him in a choke hold so tight that Peacock went unconscious, said Prosecutor Brandon Wrobleski
Wrobleski said that he believed Peacock probably did say something to provoke Barnes, but that the inmate made no physical moves toward the correctional officer before the incident.
Wrobleski showed security footage of the incident. The video did not have sound, but showed Peacock standing alone at the top of a set of stairs. Barnes climbed the stairs, engaged with Peacock, and moments later put the inmate in a choke hold until he lost consciousness. He also dislocated Peacock’s elbow while detaining him, Wrobleski said.
Morris argued that Barnes was trying to control the jail’s pod, where he was acting as the only correctional officer on staff at that time. Wrobleski called the incident a “violent attack,” and argued that Barnes used excessive force to detain Peacock.
Peacock suffers from “several” mental health disorders, Wrobleski said. He remains in custody at the HRRJ.
Several family members and friends attended Barnes’ bond hearing, including Pastor Ben Fitzgerald of Zion Community Church.
Fitzgerald described Barnes as a “gentle soul” and dedicated family man who took his work as a correctional officer seriously.
“He was trying to diffuse a difficult situation using the training he was taught,” Fitzgerald said.
After the incident, Barnes resigned from his job as a correctional officer at th HRRJ and began working as a security officer and crisis intervention trainer at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, said his younger brother, Quinton Barnes.
“We believe him to be innocent of the charges, and we believe him to be basically the person we’ve always known him to be — a high character person and a person with morals,” Quinton Barnes said of his brother.