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Judge dismisses lawsuit over 2015 Nebraska prison riot

April 12, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a Nebraska inmate’s lawsuit alleging prison officials failed to protect him from gangs and fires in a 2015 riot that left two dead.

Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf tossed the lawsuit out Friday. The judge found no evidence that prison staff were deliberately indifferent to Brian Guerry’s health and safety in the May 10, 2015, riot at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .

Guerry alleges he was exposed to burning plastic and blood in water in his cell for days after the riot. He also alleges prison staff allowed general population inmates to prey on protective custody inmates in the riot.

Kopf found that prison officials’ actions were responses to the emergency situation and not due to “sadistic or malicious intent.”

The riot at the maximum-security facility led to inmate violence in multiple locations, Kopf said. Some inmates refused to lock down, turning mops and brooms into makeshift weapons.

Fires were ignited throughout the prison, Kopf said.

Prison authorities allowed caseworkers to evacuate after smoke from a fire filled the control station. Nearly 20 prison workers were endangered and stranded in offices and the yard tower.

The prison’s central control authorized group access to cells, which signaled inmates to evacuate to the facility’s outdoor yards.

Guerry alleges that the prison staff’s decision forced him to choose between avoiding assault from gang members or smoke inhalation. He said he wasn’t treated for smoke inhalation or other injuries resulting from the riot.

“Under these difficult circumstances, TSCI staff determined that the concern for acute inmate injury from the smoke and fires took precedence over the potential problem of mixing general population and protective custody inmates,” Kopf wrote.

A 2016 ruling found no wrongdoing on behalf of the state. No one has been charged in the beating deaths of the two inmates, but more than five inmates were charged in the fires and assaults.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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