Utah jail inmate shot with rubber pellets files lawsuit
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah man with a history of mental illness is claiming jail guards used excessive force when they shot him with rubber pellets at close range after he refused to obey commands to leave his cell.
An attorney for 31-year-old Luis Carlos Prado announced Thursday that a lawsuit has been filed against Utah County after months of negotiations failed to produce a settlement.
The Orem man was being held in the mental health unit of the county jail in June 2017. Prado did not follow deputies’ orders when they told him they needed to transfer him to a different cell, according to the lawsuit and police reports.
Deputies wearing gas masks approached his cell and ordered him again to place his hands behind his back so he could be handcuffed. A video of the encounter shows Prado at the cell door with his knee in the door’s opening where food trays are delivered, challenging the deputies.
A deputy shoots his knee twice using a shotgun with less-than-lethal rounds from about 6 inches (15 centimeters) away, the video filmed by jail staffers shows.
Prado underwent surgery to remove the shotgun pellets from his leg about four weeks after the encounter. His wound was “grossly infected” at that time, the lawsuit states.
“This is really an outrageous violation of someone’s constitutional rights, of a prisoner who was confined, who is entitled to humane treatment,” said Robert Sykes, Prado’s attorney. ”...The first use of force should not have been as powerful as a shotgun at 6 inches.”
In a statement, Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith said they’ve investigated the incident and taken corrective action, but they disagree with Sykes’ characterization of what happened.
An attorney for the county, Frank Mylar, declined to specify what action was taken, but said the guards were dealing with a difficult inmate and had to take action.