Nevada to pay lawyers defending workers in deadly prison shooting

CARSON CITY — Three former prison employees involved in a deadly 2014 shooting at High Desert State Prison will receive private legal counsel, paid for by taxpayers, in pending civil lawsuits.

Three Las Vegas law firms were awarded separate contracts for $45,000 each to represent two correctional officers and a correctional officer trainee in the civil suits.

The contracts, requested by the state attorney general’s office, were among items before the Board of Examiners on Tuesday. There was no discussion. Contracts less than $50,000 can be approved by the clerk and do not require a vote by the board comprised of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.

Background material included with the contracts said private counsel for the three former prison employees was needed to avoid conflicts of interest. The attorney general’s office represents the Department of Corrections and administrators.

Carolos Perez, 28, died Nov. 12, 2014, from multiple gunshot wounds. Another inmate, Andrew Arevalo, now 25, was wounded. Both men were handcuffed behind their backs when they were shot in a shower hallway in a segregation unit known as “the hole.” High Desert is about 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas, just south of Indian Springs.

Prison official acknowledged Perez’s death when it happened but didn’t provide details. That he was shot by staff didn’t become known until four months later when the Clark County coroner reported the cause of death and ruled it a homicide.

Two civil lawsuits are pending.

Defendants include John-Reynaldo Ramos, a corrections officer trainee; and officers Isaiah Smith and Jeff Castro. They are no longer employed at the Department of Corrections. The state of Nevada, former prison Director Greg Cox, the warden, assistant warden and a lieutenant also are named.

A separate criminal investigation also is ongoing, though no charges have been filed.

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