San Diego The lobby of the Central Jail on Front Street is like a ticket office. Clerks behind glass windows service visitors, bail bondsmen, and attorneys. The mood is low-key and lazy until the elevator doors open and a newly released inmate walks out. The inmates either smile and laugh with relief or wince with tension. Some will never return, while others know that it's likely they'll be back. What separates the inmates from the visitors is their walk: They can't get out of the lobby fast enough.
On Monday afternoon, Jarvis Walker bolts through the lobby glaring straight ahead. Muscular, at six feet and 200 pounds, Walker is intimidating. He has a gash over his left eye, a raw abrasion on his right shoulder, and a swollen lip. His pants are splattered with dry blood stains. At 20 years old, he has never been in jail before, "and I ain't never goin' back."
Many inmates never get as far as the jail dormitories, and such is the case with Walker. He was arrested the night before and spent the last 16 hours in a holding cell. He is out on bond. "I was charged with fighting a police officer and resisting arrest. He never told me what he wanted to arrest me for." He looks through a plastic bag containing the personal belongings confiscated by the jail and returned to him. "I can't find my cell phone."
A navy man for two years, Walker has lived in Imperial Beach for about a year. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, he is stationed on the Bon Homme Richard. Walker had returned six days previously from a WestPac deployment before his arrest. He tells his story in a subdued voice.
"I got dragged while I was in handcuffs. I was pepper-sprayed three times in my eyes. They said I wasn't cooperating." His weary tone betrays his lack of sleep.
"I bit the officer. He was chokin' me. It took four cops to subdue me. I remember we were pullin' in the parking lot at my apartment complex. Some Mexican dudes was sayin' somethin' to my friend Jason about his Jeep, so we went out there, and Jason hit one of the guys and they ran off. We went back in the house. My wife told me to come on, but I saw Jason turn around, and he went back out there. [The lot] was full of Mexican dudes, so I wasn't gonna let him go out there by hisself. I went out there and we saw the police come, so we sat in his car. [The police] came over there and started talkin' to Jason and -- I'm a smart-ass, man, just by nature. I told him he didn't have to answer any questions, 'cause we weren't doin' anything. They said, 'Get out of the car,' so I assumed they wanted both of us to get out of the car. Jason got out. When I got out, they made a big commotion about it. My cell phone's in my pocket, and I tried to grab my phone, and the next thing I know, people are tacklin' me down and sprayin' me with pepper spray. One dude grabbed me in a choke-hold from behind, so I bit him. I just remember bein' sprayed with pepper spray, so I didn't really see everything.
"I remember bein' in the car and bein' outta the car and on the ground. My wife said the way she found out -- I remember yellin' my phone number, too -- I was, like, 'Call my wife!' and gave 'em my phone number -- she said a lady at the 7-Eleven heard me sayin' that, and she called the house. It started in my apartment complex parking lot and it ended up in the 7-Eleven parking lot. I remember them spraying me in my eyes with water. They said they were tryin' to get the pepper spray out, but you could tell they weren't tryin' to get it out. That's when they picked me up. They had my hands and my feet shackled with that thing that connects 'em both; they picked me up by that so my hands are swollen. After I was put in the car for good, I remember 'em talkin' shit to me, but I was talkin' shit to them too!"
No medical treatment was administered for his injuries. "The nurse said I should see someone when I first got there, but that was all that was said about it. They said I would go to a doctor, but at a later date."
A night in the holding cell offers little chance for sleep, and Walker has been awake since Sunday morning. "It's a little cell, about 10 by 10 with two benches and a toilet. Once they put you in there, they take the cuffs off. At one point we had 26 people in there. Then they split us into groups of 13. When I first got there, people were arrested for drinkin' and whatnot. At first, they're pretty rowdy and loud, but after they'd sober up it'd be pretty cool. People were talking, but it was not like they knew each other. It was odd. In a way, they were gloatin' about bein' in there before. Like, 'Last time I was here, they did this and did that,' or 'I've been here for that before, don't worry about it, nothin' happened to me,' you know. I think I was the only person who had never been in trouble. I'm thinking, 'This is dumb. I don't want to be here.' One guy's talkin' about 'the jails on this side of town are nicer here' and whatnot.
"They'd give you something like a bag lunch. They'd have fruit, four slices of bread, ham and cheese. They gave us one late last night and one for lunch, but I didn't eat anything while I was in there.
"The guards are assholes. They think that because they got a badge they're better than everyone else. It's their attitudes. Some of the officers inside...some of them are really nice. You look at all of 'em and you hate em all because of what happened, y'know? On the other hand, some of the people were nice, and I know I just can't classify everybody like that.