'We didn’t know if he was dead or alive': Lawsuit against Clayton sheriff alleges man beaten in jail

A family is seeking justice for their son who they say was beaten so badly in the Clayton County jail he was in the hospital for months. They put the blame on Sheriff Victor Hill and his deputies in a lawsuit filed this week.

Gabriel Arries, the plaintiff, and his parents say this is a nightmare they had never dreamed they would be going through.

Arries has no recollection of what happened to him in the Clayton County jail in February until he was told while hospitalized at Atlanta Medical Center.

"I was just in awe of it. It's horrible," said Arries.

He was traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to stay with his parents in Virginia. He lost his job in California, which helped pay for his medication for mood disorders and depression.

When he didn't show up at the airport his parents assumed he innocently missed his flight, but it was much worse.

"We got a phone call from a Major Allen at the (Clayton County) jail to tell us that our son had a traumatic brain injury, had swelling on the brain, had bleeding on the brain, and to expect a phone call from a trauma surgeon," said Gabriel's mother Francie Cate-Arries.

"Absolutely devastated," said Jonathan Arries, Gabriel's father. "No parent should have to experience what we experienced... we didn’t know if he was dead or alive."

SEE MORE: Attorneys enter 'not guilty' plea in new count against Clayton Sheriff

According to the lawsuit Gabriel Arries filed against Hill and nine defendants including several deputies, Gabriel was "repeatedly, maliciously, and violently" beaten in the jail. He says he was also unreasonably restrained in a restraint chair, and was later found unresponsive.

"We have 2,300 pages (of) medical records from eight weeks in Atlanta Medical Center. So if our words today can do anything to shed light on that dark sorry place then I am doubly grateful," said Gabriel's mother.

The family says they hired a lawyer immediately, blaming Sheriff Hill for developing a pattern and policy of using excessive force.

"There‘s nothing to say to somebody like that. I just, you know, I’m just ready to let this play out," said Gabriel. 

"So as a native Georgian. I want my fellow Georgians to know what is happening behind those closed doors," said Francie Cate-Arries.

Gabriel Arries' attorney says what is also at play here is qualified immunity, which protects law enforcement from being held liable.

They hope discussion at the federal level can help change the law and get justice in cases like theirs.
Hill already faces several allegations of inmate abuse. In April, a federal grand jury indicted the sheriff, finding that he had violated the civil rights of four people at the jail. The indictment says the men suffered pain and bodily injury when they were held for hours in a restraint chair even though they had complied with deputies and posed no threat.

The indictment alleged Hill had regularly received training on the use of restraint chairs, which may be used with a violent or uncontrollable person to prevent injury or property damage if other techniques aren’t effective. Force may not be used as punishment, the indictment says.

In July, a new indictment added a fifth victim to the allegations.

Hill has previously called the indictments "a politically motivated federal legal case." FOX 5 has reached out to the Clayton County Sheriff for comment on the new lawsuit but has not heard back.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.