Craig: Just my pride...
Officials, fearing escape attempt, removed suspect from his cell
"A newly released jail video shows bodybuilder Craig Titus being removed from his cell at the Clark County Detention Center and strapped to a chair with a pair of goggles placed over his eyes as part of a high-security escape investigation.
The video was obtained from police Monday through a Review-Journal records request.
Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn said that he has reviewed the video and that the actions of corrections officers were appropriate.
The video shows officers acting courteously toward Titus as they removed the inmate from his cell during a high-stress situation in November.
"It was extremely professional," Flynn said. "I'm very proud of the officers."
Titus' defense attorney, Marc Saggese, had a different take, saying the video shows Titus being "treated like an animal."
"After viewing it, I'm shocked and horrified," Saggese said. "This is a man who, by law, is presumed innocent."
The Review-Journal played the video for local representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada on Monday. Gary Peck and Allen Lichtenstein of the ACLU did not criticize the actions of police on the video.
"We thought the police were professional and did their job professionally," Lichtenstein said. "He (Titus) did appear totally compliant."
Lichtenstein added, "There are questions about whether the level of force used was necessary in this circumstance," but he noted he could not start to answer them without more information.
Titus, 42, is housed at the jail on charges of murder and arson in the December 2005 death of his personal assistant, Melissa James, 28. Titus' wife, fitness champion Kelly Ryan, is charged with murder also.
Flynn said the incident started when a man climbed a roof at the detention center and tampered with air ducts, which were in the vicinity of Titus' cell. Titus had been the subject of a prior escape investigation.
When police saw the man tampering with the air ducts, Flynn said, corrections officials feared he was trying to break Titus out of jail.
Titus had nothing to do with the incident, but authorities did not know that, and jailers performed a high-security extraction of Titus from his cell. They videotaped the procedure.
The video shows a team of armed corrections officers outside of Titus' cell, and a leader of the group tells Titus they are coming inside. They order Titus to the ground. Titus is warned that if he resists, officers will respond with security tactics that "will create pain, and it will possibly create death."
Titus complies with the order. He is handcuffed, and is shown being escorted out of the cell shirtless. He expresses bewilderment at what is happening.
"What's a matter?" Titus says. "What are you doing ... what the heck is going on?"
Titus is told he will be informed in a few minutes. He is placed in a chair, tied to it with leather straps, and a pair of black goggles are placed over his eyes.
"Oh my God," Titus says.
Titus is wheeled to an elevator and taken to the facility's basement.
"Sir, can you take the goggles off?" Titus says.
"Not yet," an officer responds.
A handcuffed Titus is wheeled into a small room, placed facedown on a bunk, and is stripped naked. Officers refer to him as "Mr. Titus" as his legs are raised in a security procedure.
Titus is respectful and compliant but also is heard saying "oh my God" again. As the handcuffs are removed, a red dot from a Taser laser is flashed on the wall, and Titus is asked whether he knows what the dot is. Titus says he does, and then he is told to remain still. Officers leave the cell, and Titus is pictured naked, sitting up on the bunk.
He is asked whether he has any injuries.
"Only my pride," Titus says.
The entire incident unfolds of a little more than 10 minutes. Officers do not interrogate Titus as to whether there was an escape attempt.
Titus is a suspect in what authorities have described as a plot to kill three witnesses in his case. A friend of Titus, Nelson Brady Jr., has been charged with paying an undercover detective to kill the witnesses.
Authorities have voiced suspicions that Titus orchestrated the plot from the Clark County Detention Center, but he has not been charged.
Authorities said earlier this year that Titus approached a corrections officer and inquired about how to get a corrections uniform in what has been described as a possible escape attempt.
Flynn said all of the incidents played a role in corrections officers deciding to treat the November episode as a high-security situation.
"He's been a challenging inmate since he's been there," Flynn said. "And, for the first time ever, we detected someone trying to break into the place."
The man tampering with the air ducts ended up having nothing to do with Titus and was arrested on a vandalism charge.
Titus previously described his removal from his cell as a terrifying experience in a letter to his attorney.
"I'm very scared right now," Titus wrote in the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Review-Journal. "For the first time in my life, I'm actually terrified. I need your help, my friend. But I'm also scared to even tell you in fear they may do something else to me."
Titus said that after the incident, two female nurses observed him "butt naked."
Moments before the video ends, a corrections officer is observed asking two female nurses to check Titus for any medical problems.
Flynn said the techniques used to remove Titus from his cell are not a common occurrence. They are used when someone is thought to be an escape risk or if someone poses a threat to the well-being of officers.
He said the use of female nurses to check on Titus was probably done because they were on staff at the time."
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