Jackson County jailer fired, charged with assault on teen inmate

A GBI investigation into the use of force by a former Jackson County sheriff’s deputy on a teenage inmate at the jail has led to his termination and misdemeanor criminal charges.

John Pursley, 53, was arrested and charged with two counts of simple assault and violation of oath of a public officer for an incident caught on camera. It shows what appears to be Pursely roughing up the inmate, 17-year-old Christopher Landis, investigators said.

"He came back in, grabbed Christopher, threw him on the bed and held him down and then threw him up against the wall. Christopher is 98 pounds. This guy is like four times the size of him," his mom Kendra Harris said. 

The incident was caught on surveillance video from inside the facility. Harris said she felt powerless watching it after she requested it from the sheriff’s office.

"There’s nothing you can do. You’re watching your child get thrown around like a rag doll. You know that he did something wrong, but he didn’t deserve this type of punishment," she said.

Landis was booked in the Jackson County Jail just two days before on charges of criminal trespassing. According to investigators with the GBI, the assault by Pursley took place after an argument between Landis and the deputy.

"Why did the other guards just stand there? What type of oath did they take?" Harris said in an interview Wednesday.

She said wasn’t notified about the assault and that her son, who suffers from bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD and Crohn’s disease, hadn’t been given any of his medications leading up to the incident. Harris said she believes more charges should’ve been filed. 

"The video looked really bad to me, if I would’ve done that to my own child I would’ve still been in jail," she said.

Officials with the GBI said they will continue this independent investigation. Once the investigation is complete, it will be handed over to the Jackson County District Attorney for prosecution.