PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — “Oh Lord, I’m gonna die today.”
That’s what former Hampton Roads Regional Jail inmate Johnnie Simmons says he thought to himself on the morning of Feb. 8, 2019, when he complained to Master Jail Officer Robert Whitaker about problems with other inmates in the facility.
Simmons is accusing Whitaker of choking him to the point where he passed out and urinated on himself. Whitaker is facing one count of felony strangulation and one count of assault and battery.
“I was handcuffed and sat down on the floor and said, ‘Please move me,'” said Simmons.
He says he told Whitaker that other inmates were spitting in his food.
When Simmons wouldn’t return to his jail pod, he says Whitaker pinned him to the ground.
“He took me away from the other officers, and he’s choking me and said ‘Are you going to comply?'” Simmons said. “I tried to say ‘yes.’ I tried to say ‘I can’t breathe.'”
Whitaker, whose attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment, has not worked for the jail for the last two years. Court paperwork describes him as “polite and cooperative.”
Victim advocate Amina Matheny-Willard is a defense attorney and not representing Simmons.
“I think it’s important to note that if it wasn’t for law enforcement in this situation, then the law enforcement who needs to be held accountable wouldn’t be held accountable,” she said. “I do want to commend the detectives who brought this case to the forefront to make sure other law enforcement are held accountable.”
Whitaker is currently out on bail and is due back in court in April.