2009
11.16

Late in the evening of Friday November 6th, Rossville PD officers arrested Charles Lee Cochran for “disorderly conduct” and sent him to the Walker County Jail. Mr Cochran was later found in a jail cell hanging dead from a t-shirt. The GBI was called in to do an autopsy and investigate the incident, as would be expected.

Initial news reports offered very little information about what actually happened, and a slightly more detailed story on the Walker Messenger site still left a lot of unanswered questions.

Sheriffs OfficeThe Messenger story gathered dozens of comments suggesting that the jail, the Walker Sheriff’s Office, or possibly the Rossville PD had beaten and then killed Cochran for reasons never made clear. The entire incident received little media attention, or less than you’d expect, and that added to feelings that something improper had occurred.

An additional article on the Messenger site addressed many of the claims of impropriety without mentioning any claims or suggestions had been made; that article is what eventually ran in the Wednesday paper (delivered Thursday due to Veteran’s Day). That article also gathered an unusually high number of reader comments (well over 100 as this is written), generally repeating the earlier claims of abuse from the same posters.

That article clarified that Mr. Cochran and a 22 year old woman had been arrested for fighting with a neighbor while drunk. He was not given an alcohol test since he wasn’t involved in a DUI, and was placed in a “drunk tank” cell to sober up before he could be booked. That type of holding tank at the Walker Jail has a hole in the floor instead of a toilet for “inmate safety” and lacks surveillance cameras to protect inmate privacy, meaning there is no tape of the hanging (or anything else in the cell) to prove exactly what happened either way.

Due to the controversy and claims of wrongdoing, we decided to check into things a bit and see if any of the accusations made against the jail/Sheriff’s Office/Rossville PD can be substantiated.

According to a former jail employee I spoke with, everything being claimed by the sheriff’s office is plausible. The treatment of Mr. Cochran (including a booking delayed until he sobered up) is within standard protocol, and the holding cell layout matches the description provided.

The former employee confirmed Walker County Jail “drunk tanks” don’t have toilets for inmate safety, but have several areas where a well-motivated person could hang or jam an article of clothing well enough to be hanged. Those places include a space between or beside mirrors on the walls of some cells, the tract from an overhead acoustical-tile drop ceiling, and possibly pipes or other architectural features hidden above the drop ceiling.

The Sheriff’s Office’s desire to maintain detainee privacy is duly noted and appreciated, but for issues of safety and accountability the no-cameras policy for “drunk tanks” may need to be reexamined. A camera placed in the same corner as the toilet hole would be able to monitor most activity in the cell without capturing those moments of nudity UNLESS mirrors are posted on the opposite wall. Even in that case any distorted and secondary nudity caught on tape would still be preferable to in essence working blind the way jailers do now.

The SO might also do well to reexamine the layout and overall construction of its holding cells. The same attention to “detail” employed in the removal of basic bathroom facilities should be applied to the removal, filling, or reduction of cracks, openings, ceiling tile tracts, sharp edges, extrusions, and other potentially dangerous architectural features that might provide an opportunity for inmates to serve as their own executioners while waiting to sober up or come down.

I think we can conclude, based at least on this evidence, that nothing directly illegal was done by the SO or jail employees. At the same time, the department needs to take responsibility for the environment that allowed the suicide to occur and take the necessary steps to keep further incidents of this type from happening.

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6 comments so far

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  1. As far as the Charles Cochran’s case goes their is something fishy going on down there and yes their was inmates in the jail that said they heard him and that they were beatinghim but you know those people can’t give their name out because if they do then their life is endangered because they are incarcerated down there. I know people that have been down there and put in the drunk tank cell and they say there is nothing in there that you can hang yourself by. I think they are covering it up. I don’t think they screen the jailers good enough. As I understand they couldn’t have a visitation before the day of his funeral because the funeral home couldn’t have him ready in enough time because of all of the trauma. I didn’t know him personally but I am a citizen of Walker County and I went to the funeral home and he had a big bruise on top of his head. If someone did beat him or a number of them for that fact then they just need to own up to it because I really don’t know how they can sleep at night. You know when you do things like that to people it always comes back to you so you know something could happen to them as bad or even worse, so if anyone did this and they read this comment then they really need to think about what they did about taking a man’s life, becuase if they don’t answer for it now then come judgement day they will have to answer to God.

  2. wow..this is all so crazy!!
    I think that if he did HANG his self they should have took pictures of his body when he was found dead to prove there was no blood…no bruises and ect!!

    i know that some family members say when they saw his body before he was laid to rest and checked to see if they could find anything other then the mark around his neck and they did.. his NOSE actually looked like it had been broken…and there was a big bruise on the left side of his face that makeup did not cover up. also a cut right above his lip!
    i do know the family didnt have money to have a private autopsy done like they wish they could have done but they are gettin an attorney

    my question is the 22 year old that was takin to walker county with him that night had also been drinkin but was ALSO booked around 11:30 that night if they wait till the inmates sober up why did she get booked and not him because i know a female being drunk is not gonna sober up faster than a man that weighs alot more than her…it seems to me that the 36 year old that had drunk manly for 20 years would sober up way quickly before she would they didnt find him till about 2:30am so therefore when she got booked he was still alive!!
    it just doesnt make any sense to me
    its crazy and i just hope that poor family could find out the truth
    because i think they could get over it more quickly if they actually KNEW he really killed his self… then to think he got beat and had to suffer through his death
    i just think the family needs CLOSURE

    and also i heard from SOME family members that the walker county sherrifs office never called once or even said IM sorry for the LOSS
    its just so messed up

  3. About Charles Cochran, they said he was restrained so if he was restrained then how did he hang himself there is no way someone had to help him do it. I talked to a friend of mine that none of the family got to identify the body, they first saw the body at the funeral home, now how suspicious does that sound and I have been reading up on georgia jails and I read where alot of jails are being sued because officers beating restrained inmates, so something really fishy is going on here and i hope if anyone reads this and knows something then whoever did it needs to be punished. They could be saving someone else’s life. There are heartless people in this world today and you know it is Thanksgiving for this family and how do you think they are going to feel this Thanksgiving without their loved one. People ought to come forward if they know anything because I couldn’t live with myself if I did something like that but like a said there is a lot of heartless people. I couldn’t be with my family on Thanksgiving if I took a man’s life and took him from his family and kids, so all I am asking is someone come forward because this family deserves to know and see that the person or person’s who did it gets punished. I have read comments where the officers down there think they are God when they put that badge on but it doesn’t give them a right to kill and to know they may have killed a man over disorderly conduct charge. That is really sad. I would like to see justice served here.

  4. You no it sad that someone did this to my uncle Chucky… I really dont think he would ever do anything like this… He said on the way to jail to the girl that was with him we r just goin till mornin then we will be out dont worry about it we will be fine… Then he never got booked… How come she got booked and he didnt??? Why wasnt there pictures taken of him hangin?? How come people in the jail heard him yellin because he was gettin beat?? So many questions need to be answered… How come know one ever called to tell the family??? If they didnt beat him why was his body so bad that the funeral home had to take a day away from viewin him because they couldnt get him ready cause all the trama?? I looked at his neck i had to see for myself he didnt really have that bad of marks… Just little spots looked like carpet burn almost like they just rubbed it around his neck… If he would of hung hisself they would of been indentions around his neck from were it cut into it and there wasnt any indentions on his neck… I know my uncle chucky would never do this to his self… Hes has 3 babygirls to live for and that he would do anything for….Now he cant do anything for them because that has been taken away from him… Now his kids has to grow up not knowing what really happen to there daddy…
    I hope who ever did this to him cant sleep at night!! Like all the restless nights we have had… I hope they think about there kids if they have them… What there kids would have to go throw… Watchin his babys goin up to the casket breakin down cause they have to look at there daddy layin there and they will never get to see him again… The youngest one not understandin whats really goin on just knows thats her daddy layin there and tellin her daddy wont see her again… So i hope who ever done this has to read this i hope you have kids… I hope you think about what your kids would have to go throw..

  5. I am also a family member and I agree with what Tosha said, he was taken from us and we all believe for an unfair reason, and I will never believe anything else. I cry every day about him and I am sure his kids do to. His brothers and sisters are having a hard time with this also. I know there was a friend that raised chuck’s head up and saw some of the damage and he said it was not caused by the autopsy and the funeral home had so much make up on him and the bruise from his face was showing threw the make up and like Tosha said they had to take a day of the viewing because they couldn’t get him ready because of all the trauma. I have friends that have had family in the jail down there and said that they were telling them not to even say chuck’s name or they would have priveleges taken. If they have nothing to hide then why would they care if they talk about him. I have a friend that her son just got out from down there and he says they really treat them bad in there. And the t shirt he had on that night was too thin for him to hang himself because it would not have held him up by his weight. I saw him about 30 minutes before he went to jail and he was not highly intoxicated the way they said he was, and he didn’t get in a fight with anyone, he just had words with the man. I have saw gangs of people that have been in the street and actually been fighting and they didn’t take them to jail and they would be considered disorderly conduct also, but he has words with someone and gets taken to jail for disorderly conduct. That just isn’t right. We as a family had to go through the holidays with this burden on our heart and it just wasn’t easy spending the holidays without him. I know he would have never taken his own life because he believed in God and he knew that would be wrong. I hope if anyone that was there that night and knows what happened would come forward and if not then they are cowards also and I hope if someone did something to him that they really sit down and think of what they have done and have all the sleepless nights like the family has. You know he really was looking forward to spending the holidays with his family especially his children. I just hope that justice gets served and I know it will one day if not in this lifetime, then God knows what happen and he says vengeance is his, so if anyone did something to him then they will have to answer to God for what they did. So I just think they really need to think about what happened that night.

  6. I think the death of Charles Cochran should be added to the list because law enforcement gets by with what they do and I think this should be further investigated.