Lawsuit about jail cell firecracker to proceed

Five former inmates at the Clark County Detention Center will be permitted to pursue their lawsuit against correction officers who lobbed a live M-80 firecracker, which amounts to about a quarter-stick of dynamite, into their cell in 2003.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

Eric Watson, Alex Owen, Fred Robinson, Stephen Basden and Michael Krivak, who claimed they suffered permanent hearing loss, severe headaches and emotional distress, can proceed with their lawsuit against the two officers but not the Metropolitan Police Department.

According to the ruling, on June 29, 2003, Christopher Brinkley tossed the explosive into the module housing the inmates.

Brinkley had obtained the device from Alan Hirjak, a fellow correctional officer, according to court documents.

The appeals court opinion said the Police Department handled the incident appropriately, doling out lengthy suspensions.

But representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, who immediately chimed in on the incident, said Tuesday that the correctional officers should have been fired.

“I’m not interested in seeing police officers fired at the drop of a hat; I don’t believe some particular transgression or mistake warrants firing,” said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. “But you’d be hard pressed to find an act that isn’t more worthy of termination than this. It’s illegal to buy them, illegal to possess them and illegal to throw them at people.”

Allen Lichtenstein, attorney for the ACLU of Nevada, said he was pleased that the appeals court reversed the initial District Court decision, but he added that the Police Department also should have been held accountable.

“This is an outrageous act that had no colorable, legitimate activity,” Lichtenstein said Tuesday. “You don’t throw M-80 firecrackers at people in cells.”

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