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Bible belt: Guard hits inmate with good book

A guard at the Blue Earth County Jail has been suspended after allegedly thumping an inmate with a Bible.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A guard at the county jail here has been suspended after allegedly thumping an inmate with a Bible.

James Lee Sheppard, 56, has been charged with two gross misdemeanors for allegedly swatting an inmate with the book, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him against steel bars on Feb. 8, according to the criminal complaint.

A video recording shows Sheppard entering the cell of inmate Jeremy Hansen, 26. Sheppard then takes Hansen's Bible and strikes him in the side of the face with the book. The two exchange words as the guard walks away, said Mankato Police Officer Allen Schmidt who watched the video.

The rest of the incident was not captured on film because of an object obstructing the camera. But the complaint states that Sheppard walked back toward Hansen, grabbed him and pushed him into the cell bars.

Dennis McCoy, Blue Earth County administrator, said the incident was first reported by Sheppard. "He knew he violated policy and, to his credit, he turned himself in," McCoy said.

Sheppard declined to comment to The Associated Press on Wednesday. He referred calls to a St. Paul attorney, but the attorney said he had not been formally retained by Sheppard and so couldn't speak on the guard's behalf.

Sheppard is on leave while the incident is being investigated.

Sheppard is scheduled to appear in Brown County court April 26 on the charges of mistreatment of an inmate and misconduct by a public officer.