Siobhan Householder was told to wait in the room, so she did. She was at the Summit County, Ohio, domestic relations court, waiting for a warrant to be vacated after missing a hearing, where she appeared of her own accord. No big deal, at first.
Sitting there with her purse, another bag and a plastic cup of soda, Householder took some Tylenol for a tooth infection while waiting. All hell broke loose. Via Ohio.com:
After the deputy was there about two minutes, Householder said she took two Tylenol pills along with a sip of soda. She was taking a third when the deputy confronted her, she said.
“He said, ‘What are you taking?’ and I said, Tylenol,” she recalled. “And he said, ‘Spit it out’ and I said, ‘I can’t.’ I meant to say I can’t spit it out because I had already swallowed the other pills.
“But I didn’t even get that part out before he just yanked me up and threw me down on the ground and was trying to dig these pills out of mouth.
“And there was one [pill] in there and I couldn’t even get it out because he kept shoving his hand in my mouth and squeezing my face and pulling my hair at the same time.”
Wrestled to floor.
Why would the deputy feel compelled to do this?
Sheriff’s Inspector Bill Holland, speaking on behalf of the department and deputy, said Vaughan was ordered to take Householder into custody. Householder said she was unaware she was in custody.
“While taking Ms. Householder into custody, Deputy Vaughan witnessed her attempt to ingest several pills. He restrained her for her safety and she was transported to a local hospital where she was treated and released,” Holland wrote in an emailed statement.
It’s always curious when, following the use of violence against a person, the explanation offered is that it was “for her safety.” Apparently, safety doesn’t mean what most of us think it does. But there are two definitions at risk here, the other being “custody.”
While no one mentioned the word, or explained the rules inherent in her status as a woman sitting in a room off the courtroom, Householder was in custody as far as Deputy Vaughan was concerned, and that meant the rules of custody applied.
Among those rules is that no one ingests a substance without official approval. Whether this is a life-saving drug, say a pill for a heart attack, or a benign pain reliever like Tylenol, isn’t the point. The fear is that someone might consume an illegal drug, which would be intolerable because drugs, or on the flip side, commit suicide over a vacated domestic court warrant. Okay, that was snark, as rules aren’t subject to rational perspective.
The point is that the rule against a person in custody ingesting an unapproved substance isn’t arbitrary. The problem here is that prior to the deputy’s efforts to force his fingers down her throat, no one told Householder that her doing something commonly, and otherwise harmlessly, done would evoke such a response. Notably, people in custody usually aren’t allowed to bring plastic cups with beverages inside either, as it might contain whisky or hemlock.
When Vaughan asked “what are you taking,” he received a compliant, and appropriate response. But then, his question was apparently rhetorical:
He was pulling down on my bottom lip and squeezing my face at the same time,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “He basically pulled my lip away from my teeth.”
She said she suffered a bruised chin, cuts inside her mouth, bruises to her legs and some hair loss.
Once the need to win the battle to stop unapproved ingestion starts, adrenalin kicks in and the deputy does what he has to do to enforce the rules. The prisoner’s safety is paramount. After that, it’s all about the evidence:
At one point during the tussle, the prescription bottle falls to the floor and the deputy picks it up and reads the label. He eventually appears to collect a single Tylenol pill that fell on the carpeting.
Then it’s about justifying the violence.
A court spokeswoman also said Householder was in custody until she could be booked and released.
In fact, jail records show Householder was “remote booked and released on domestic relations case” that same afternoon, either from the courthouse or the hospital.
A magistrate also signed the order lifting the warrant that same day.
But as one door closed, another opened.
Paramedics treated Householder at the scene for a bloody mouth. She was in the hospital ER when she was released with summonses on charges of resisting arrest and obstructing official business.
And then there was the slew of evidence that this criminal mastermind surreptitiously snuck into this custodial setting despite the watchful eyes of Deputy Vaughan.
She has a prior resisting-arrest charge stemming from an unrelated incident in April.
Deputies in the courthouse seized her prescribed medications, which include the nine Tylenol and two diazepam tablets. They also seized 26 ibuprofen tablets Householder had in a plastic sandwich bag that were kept in her purse, and three unknown pills they said were in a latex glove. Householder disputes putting any pills in a latex glove.
She has not been charged with any drug offenses.
Apparently, criminal possession of latex is not a crime in Ohio. From the perspective of a guard, each piece of this fiasco makes perfect sense, that she was in technical custody awaiting the warrant to be lifted, that she’s not allowed to take pills, that the deputy was supposed to prevent it from happening and did what seemed, at the moment, to make sense, and that the problem wasn’t that Deputy Vaughan engaged in needless, harmful violence over nothing.
The problem is that if the system is going to impose its rules on someone, especially through the use of force, then even a moderately reasonable first step is to alert people to what those rules are. Contrary to the assumption of every official person ever, systemic insanity is not intuitive. As noted in the good guy curve, ordinary people expect some small degree of rationality and reasonableness in the behavior of deputies.
Despite everything else, one has to wonder whether Deputy Vaughan, at some point, thought to himself, “why am I sitting atop this woman, violently prying her mouth open, pulling her hair and shoving my fingers down her throat?” This was certainly what Siobhan Householder was thinking, who would have been happy to comply had someone just told her that she couldn’t take Tylenol until she was on the other side of the door.