A former correctional officer trainee at High Desert State Prison charged in the shooting death of an inmate struck a deal with prosecutors Tuesday.
Raynaldo John Ruiz “R.J.” Ramos entered what’s referred to as an Alford plea to a felony charge of attempted performance of an act or neglect of duty in willful or wanton disregard of safety or persons or property resulting in death.
The type of plea Ramos entered, which his attorney, Josh Tomsheck called “fictional,” means Ramos admitted only that prosecutors have enough evidence to prove the allegations to a jury.
Under the terms of the deal, Ramos, an honorably discharged 10-year Army veteran, must undergo a mental health evaluation with the Department of Veterans Affairs and follow any recommended treatment plan and provide authorities with quarterly progress reports. He is also required to perform 10 hours of community service each month for two years.
Should he complete the requirements and stay out of criminal trouble, the charge would be reduced to a gross misdemeanor.
Tomsheck said that Ramos was acting on his limited training with the prison system when he shot Carlos Perez, a 28-year-old inmate who was handcuffed behind his back during a November 2014 scuffle with another inmate.
“While we were fully prepared to present the full version of what occurred at trial and extremely confident in our defense, this resolution was best for everyone involved,” Tomsheck said in an emailed statement. “This negotiation ensures that no one involved is forced to endure the trauma and expense of a public trial and that Mr. Ramos can put this unfortunate incident behind him and move on with his life as a contributing member of society.”
Ramos initially faced charges of involuntary manslaughter and performance of an act in reckless disregard of persons or property resulting in the death, which carried the possibility of prison time.
Ramos, who was a probationary employee at the time of the shooting, was terminated in the spring of 2015. Two other former correctional officers implicated in Perez’s death at the prison 40 miles north of Las Vegas resigned in May 2015.
Neither of those officers was charged criminally, though internal disciplinary documents from the Nevada Department of Corrections released in a lawsuit said they were culpable.
Another inmate, Andrew Arevalo, was shot in the face but survived.
The shooting happened in a hallway in a segregation unit known as “the hole,” where inmates are supposed to be kept separated because of security or safety issues.
Perez died at the scene, and the Department of Corrections reported the death the next day. But the fact that Perez was shot by staff was not revealed until four months later, when the Clark County coroner said he died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest and ruled his death a homicide.
Attorney Paola Armeni represents Perez’s family in a civil lawsuit against the guards, state and prison system. That case was put on hold as Ramos’ criminal case worked its way through the court system.
“There’s got to be some accountability for the person who shot the gun and reloaded and shot again,” Armeni said. “That doesn’t mean that the accountability has to be 20 years in prison. But 10 hours of community service is not accountability for a death. And that, in my opinion, devalues the life of Carlos Perez.”
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