Graham County Jail inmate brain dead at UMC after transport incident

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Deborah Sanchez: Jorden Marie Simms was declared brain dead Friday from injuries sustained after she reportedly leaped from a moving jail transport vehicle Thursday night.

Woman fatally injured after jumping from moving vehicle

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – Jorden Marie Simms, 28, was declared brain dead early Friday morning after suffering a traumatic injury during a prisoner transport Thursday night. 

Early Saturday morning, an honor walk was performed for Simms and she was taken off life support and passed.

Simms was initially arrested Dec. 21 for shoplifting and a warrant out of Yavapai County. On Dec. 23, Simms claimed she had been raped by the arresting officer from the Safford Police Department. After the allegation, the Safford Police Department transported Simms to Sierra Vista to have a rape kit performed and informed the Arizona Department of Public Safety of the alleged incident. 

According to Safford Police Chief Joe Brugman, the SPD performed a sexual assault kit including DNA on Simms and turned it over to the DPS for investigation. As of Saturday afternoon, Brugman said the DPS has not released the results of the kit.

Simms’ mother, Deborah Sanchez, told the Gila Herald that the Arizona Department of Public Safety was investigating the alleged rape. 

The Gila Herald reached out to the DPS on Friday and DPS Media Relations Specialist Bart Graves replied that he would check with the organization’s Criminal Investigations Division regarding the query. However, further response confirming or denying the investigation has yet to be given as of Saturday morning.    

Simms’ family also believes that she was mistreated while at the Graham County Adult Detention Facility and that Simms claimed a female detention officer inserted an object into her anus during a strip search during intake, ostensibly to see if she was hiding contraband. 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Deborah Sanchez: Jorden Marie Simms, 28, was declared brain dead early Friday morning.

After Simms made that allegation, the Graham County Sheriff’s Office transported her to Sierra Vista for another examination, according to Sheriff P.J. Allred. On the advice of a medical professional from Sierra Vista, arrangements were made to take Simms to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center before returning to the Graham County Adult Detention Facility due to equipment necessary for a thorough examination not available at the Advocacy Center. Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center. While on the way to the hospital, Simms reportedly managed to wrangle out of her handcuffs and leaped from the moving Ford Explorer transport vehicle while it was northbound on 20th Avenue. Sheriff Allred described the Explorer as an older vehicle that is able to be opened from the inside, unlike other patrol and transport vehicles that do not have that ability. A press release by the Sheriff’s Office on Sunday reported that the child-safety lock on Simms’ side had been disengaged. Graham County Dispatch notes list that the incident occurred around 6:44 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 26, along S. 20th Avenue near the Sunshine Valley Apartments. 

Simms was initially taken to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center and was then flown to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, where she was later declared brain dead. 

Allred said the Sheriff’s Office has reached out to the DPS for assistance in investigating the incident. 

“I wish it hadn’t of happened, but when somebody is bound and determined to do things, most of the time they find a way to get it done,” Allred said. “We will never be able to ask her and find out exactly what it was she was thinking or what she wanted to get done. A lot of people can speculate, including ourselves, but until we find some other type of evidentiary type of stuff we won’t know.”

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Jorden Simms was previously booked into the jail on a warrant in July.

Allred said he didn’t believe his employees did anything incorrect and that they took Simms’ allegations seriously and did what was necessary to be held accountable. He added that none of the medical examiner’s reports from Sierra Vista had been completed and that the Sheriff’s Office has a “very long history” of looking into its employees and holding them accountable. 

“There have been allegations made and we have found there were things they did not do that they were accused of doing and others did things that were not right and they were held accountable for those things,” Allred said. “We hold people accountable for what happens . . . There is an investigation being done. There have been kits done on her. We have evidentiary stuff. There are kits having been done on her, so we’ll be able to say whether it’s this, that, or whatever.”

The reassuring words have done little to ease the pain of the family members, who have spread their story on social media with their belief that Simms was raped, and then beaten by law enforcement. 

On Saturday, Safford Police Chief Joe Brugman issued the following news release.

“On Dec. 21, 2019, Jorden Simms was contacted and taken into custody by the Safford Police Department for shoplifting.  Simms also had an outstanding warrant for her arrest from Yavapai County, which was theft and drug-related, with a bond of $25,000. She was booked into the Graham County Jail. 

On Dec. 23, 2019, in the evening, the suspect (Simms) made an allegation against the arresting officer. Due to the nature of the allegation, internal and criminal investigation processes were initiated, and the Safford Officer was placed on administrative leave effective Dec. 24, 2019, per policy.

Safford Police Department contacted the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), requesting that they conduct an investigation regarding the allegation.

This investigation has begun, and the Safford Police Department is committed to seeing it through to its final outcome.“ 

Note: In the initial article Sheriff P.J. Allred stated the transport vehicle was a Chevy Tahoe but a subsequent press release from the Sheriff’s Office reported the vehicle to be a Ford Explorer. The original version also stated the transport went to the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center on its way back to Safford due to a medical complaint from Simms, according to the sheriff, but the subsequent release stated it was to utilize equipment not available at the Advocacy Center in Sierra Vista where she was taken for her examination.

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