Jefferson Co. Deputies Searching for Man Accused in Jail Brawl Beating

- JEFFERSON CO., AR - Jefferson County Sheriff employees have spent silent hours watching the jail brawl from June 16 that left detainee Paul Washington in critical care.

"You have to sift through some evidence and conduct interviews before you can formally charge someone," said Major Lafayette Woods of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

The month-long investigation has led to first degree battery charges against George Austin, Jr. Austin is featured in the surveillance video because he was in custody at the time, serving a year for drug charges.

"When the fight happened, did we not know Austin was involved? " Fox16 asked Woods.

"We knew he was involved, but we didn't know to what extent," Woods said.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Washington was trying to defend his brother, who was also incarcerated at the time, but ends up being punched and body slammed so hard his ears began bleeding.

Washington later tried to ask for help from jailers, but other detainees, including Austin, threaten him and waved him away from the door.

Washington endured at least two more blows in another fight before jailers removed him from the pod.

"We can't predict fights, we can only react to them and try to minimize them," Woods said. "We ask at the time of intake if the detainee knows anyone who is currently detained that might want to hurt them. We do that so we can segregate them, but we were not made aware of any history between Austin and Washington."

Washington was transported immediately to the hospital, where he remained in critical condition as of Tuesday. He has faced multiple surgeries and has even spent time on life support.

"His condition has not increased," said Woods, referring to Washington's condition. "It's actually worsened, and if it continues to worsen the first degree battery charges for Austin could be upgraded."

Just two days after the fight, Austin walked out of the Jefferson County Detention Center. He was released, because he had complete his one year sentence for drug charges.

"So you guys didn't necessarily know that by releasing Austin, you were releasing the person who had beaten up
Washington, is that right?" Fox16 asked Woods.
"At that point, we knew he was involved, but to what extent, we didn't know," Woods said. "It took about 17 or 18 detainee interviews to get all of the facts."

Deputies ultimately opted not to hold Austin and according to Woods, the department has never dealt with an inmate that is set for release and commits a crime behind bars just days before.

"We didn't think coupled with taking our time and doing interviews with individuals, we didn't think he would be a flight risk," Woods said. "We still don't know that he is a flight risk. We just can't find him at this point and time."

According to Woods, Sheriff's deputies have checked Austin's previous known addresses but have come up empty handed. The office is asking for the public's help in tracking down his whereabouts.

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