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Former Oklahoma corrections officer convicted for allowing white supremacist attack on Black detainees

Matthew Ansley / Unsplash

A former Kay County Detention Center supervisory corrections officer faces up to 10 years in prison for violating the civil rights of three Black detainees.

53-year-old Matthew Ware was convicted by a federal jury in Oklahoma City, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s news release. Ware allowed white supremacist inmates to attack two Black pretrial detainees and ordered excessive force against a third inmate.

While serving as the Lieutenant of the center, Ware ordered lower-ranking corrections officers to move two Black detainees, D’Angelo Wilson and Marcus Miller, to a cell row housing white supremacists inmates on May 18, 2017. Ware made the orders knowing the inmates posed danger to Wilson and Miller, according to the department.

Later, Ware ordered the officers to unlock the cells housing Wilson and Miller, and the white supremacist inmates the next morning. They attacked Miller and Wilson, resulting in injuries, including a cut on Wilson’s face that took seven stitches to close.

Kristen Clarke, an assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said Ware had a duty to ensure the rights of people in his custody were not violated.

“The defendant abused his power and authority by ordering subordinate corrections officers to violate the constitutional rights of several pretrial detainees,” Clarke said. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to hold corrections officials accountable when they violate the civil rights of detainees and inmates.”

Then on Jan. 31, 2018, Ware, the acting captain of the center, ordered lower-ranking officers to restrain another pretrial detainee, Christopher Davis, in a stretched position.

His right and left wrists were tied to opposite ends of a bench, and he was left extended and bound for 90 minutes. Davis was physically injured from the incident.

This was a response to a note Ware received from Davis criticizing how he ran the detention center, according to the department.

Ware is convicted of willfully depriving two pretrial detainees of their rights to be free from a corrections officer’s deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm. He is facing a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and supervised release. His sentencing will take place in the next 90 days.

Hannah France is a reporter and producer for KGOU.
Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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