The man arrested for allegedly beating and attempting to rape a woman in a downtown Mobile parking garage in 2018 is facing new felony charges after police say he left one of his cellmates in the hospital with “serious injuries” after an attack last month.
Douglas Dunson Jr., 44, was arrested for second-degree assault and first-degree attempted rape on June 5, 2018 — the same day police recieved reports of a woman being beaten for severael minutes and nearly raped by a homeless man in an RSA parking garage on Water Street.
Dunson since pleaded not guilty to those charges and is currently being held without bond at Mobile Metro Jail. According to Warden Trey Oliver, though, Dunson is alleged to have severely assaulted one of the inmates he was sharing a cell with around 1 a.m., April 19.
As of May 14, the unidentified inmate was still in critical condition at a local hospital. Oliver said cameras in the area caught some of the alleged attack on video, and while the footage was dark because of the lighting, he believes there is enough evidence to show Dunson was the assailant.
Metro Jail has faced problems with overcrowding and sorting its prisoners for years, which are some of the factors that led to Dunson — an inmate with a documented history of violence and mental illness — sharing a cell with other individuals the night of the alleged assault.
“He was in a cell with two other people because of overcrowding — that’s just a fact of life,” Oliver said. “In an ideal world, he would have been housed separately from both of them.”
Recently, Lagniappe reported on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ongoing investigation into Metro Jail. For the past 16 years, some of the DOJ’s key concerns have been overcrowding, inadequate mental health services and the system used to separate potentially violent inmates from others who could become victims of violence of sexual assault.
While a number of those issues have been addressed, they still present challenges for jailers and local corrections officials. The Mobile County Commission recently approved funding for a study that would help determine a more safe system for segregating prisoners from one another.
However, that system is not yet in place, and even when it’s developed, local law enforcement officials have expressed concern that it could be impossible to consistently follow due to Metro Jail’s spacing limitations and its inadequate number of single-individual jail cells.
As Oliver indicated, though, Dunson appears to be an ideal type of prisoner to be separated from others. Following his arrest last year, Lagniappe dove into some records from Dunson’s previous says at Metro Jail and from his mental health history.
Dunson was released from state prison in 2016 after serving 20 years for a 1996 muder conviction. Before long, he became homeless and began to have frequent run-ins with police. Between May 2017 and June 5, 2018, Dunson was booked into Metro Jail a total of 18 times.
On five separate occasions, Metro’s mental health staff attempted to have him involuntarily committed through the Mobile County Probate Court because of violent and erratic behavior.
Those attempts proved unsuccessful because most offenses Dunson was arrested for were misdemeanors, and as a result, he was often released under his own recognizance before a commitment hearing in probate court could take place. Once out, he never showed up for court.
As a result, Dunson kept returning to jail when he would inevitably get arrested on the streets, despite members of Metro’s staff acknowledging that his mental health issues were progressing and that he begun to present a “risk of harm to himself and others.”
In fact, the staff at Metro had tried to have Dunson committed again since he was booked for his allegedly role in last year’s violent sexual assault. However, Oliver said that request was prevented by the criminal court system because of the severity of the charges he’s facing.
“We definitely tried to probate him this time because obviously he’s in need of some kind of intervention, but that effort was denied. So, he remains under criminal confinement,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say that it was denied because of the seriousness of his criminal charges, and we understand that, but at the same time, you open yourself up to this kind of situation.”
Oliver said his staff is and was well aware Dunson suffers from mental illness, but he also said that’s not at all uncommon in the jail. He also said it shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for the behavior Dunson displayed when he allegedly attacked another inmate April 19.
“I did see some things in video of the incident that led me to believe he knows right from wrong,” Oliver said. “I’m no expert, but he seemed to be concerned about getting caught. I don’t want anyone to think he’s getting a pass because he’s mentally ill.”
Dunson has yet to be formally charged with any crime related to the April 19 assault, though Oliver said he will at least face some type of additional assault charge. The delay in charging Dunson could be related to the condition of the victim, who is said to still be critical.
The incident remains under investigation by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit. A trial has yet to be scheduled for Dunson’s charges related to last year’s assault.
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