A civil rights lawsuit alleges two Nevada prison guards “created a gladiator-like scenario” in November when they allowed two handcuffed inmates to fight before a third guard shot both inmates.
Inmate Carlos Manuel Perez, 28, died Nov. 12 at High Desert State Prison, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The man’s family filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Clark County District Court against the state of Nevada and several individuals, including Warden Dwight Neven and Assistant Warden Timothy Filson.
The death was reported by the Department of Corrections soon after it happened, but it wasn’t until late March that it was revealed that Perez was shot and killed by a prison guard.
A second inmate, Andrew Arevalo, also was shot, but he survived.
The Department of Corrections said the guard who fired on the inmates was placed on leave with two other guards pending an investigation. The Nevada Division of Investigation conducted the probe and later turned over its findings to the state attorney general’s office.
State officials have not released the names of the guards who were placed on leave. According to the lawsuit, Perez was in “protective custody under administrative segregation.”
The lawsuit alleges two corrections officers, identified only as Castro and Smith, “released restrained inmate Perez from his shower at the same time inmate Arevalo was out of his cell.”
“Eventually, the two inmates started yelling and kicking each other,” the document alleges. “Rather than separating the inmates, who were each handcuffed behind their back, defendants Castro and Smith refused to intervene. On the contrary, Smith and Castro created a gladiator-like scenario and allowed the inmates to fight.”
Eventually, according to the lawsuit, Castro “maliciously and sadistically ordered” a corrections officer trainee identified only as Ramos to deploy lethal force against Perez.
The document alleges Ramos then grabbed his shotgun and “maliciously and sadistically shot” Perez.
Prison officials violated their policies and practices by allowing both inmates out of their cells at the same time, according to the lawsuit, which claims Ramos continued to shoot at Perez after he was on the ground.
The Clark County coroner’s office ruled Perez’s death a homicide, saying he died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest and arms.
Perez had been at High Desert serving an 18-to-48-month sentence for battery since March 13, 2014, according to the Department of Corrections.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants subjected Perez to excessive use of force, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment, by shooting him in the eye. It further claims the defendants refused to provide Perez with timely medical care.
According to an email Wednesday from an unidentified public information officer at the Department of Corrections, the attorney general’s office “is in possession of and is currently reviewing the investigation.”
“The Department of Corrections does not comment on pending investigations or ongoing litigation.
The Department does, however, extend its heartfelt sympathies to the mother, brother, children and family of Carlos Perez Jr.”
Patty Cafferata, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit was filed by Perez’s brother, Victor, and mother, Myra.