Video-recorded beating of mentally-ill California inmate leads to $1.9M settlement
Video of jail guards punching and using a stun gun on a mentally-ill inmate was released this week as a judge gave final approval to a $1.87-million settlement over alleged abuse at the northern California lockup, a newspaper reported on Thursday.
The class-action settlement comes two years after abuse allegations at the Auburn Main Jail led to the firings of three officials and a revamp of how Placer County deputies use force against inmates, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Video of a 2017 cell extraction involving mentally-ill inmate Beau Bangert showed four sheriff’s officials smashing him into a wall with a plastic body shield, then alternately punching and shocking him with a stun gun.
“We’re going to put you to sleep,” one says moments before six other jailers rush toward the cell to aid in restraining Bangert.
Minutes later, Bangert is wheeled back into the cell in a “safety chair” with a mesh bag — or “spit mask” — over his head. Officials remove the mask, then leave the limp Bangert staring face up from the chair with his face covered in blood.
The footage was released to the Bee by civil rights attorney Mark Merin after a lengthy fight to get that and other videos unsealed. It was one of the factors that led county officials to agree to a class-action settlement last year, the newspaper said.
“They demonstrated total insensitivity and it was clearly an abusive gang attack on a defenseless individual,” Merin said. “And it showed absence of training and malevolence on the part of the deputies who participated.”
Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell did not respond immediately to a message seeking comment on Thursday.
Bell, who had just been appointed sheriff, held a news conference to disclose the attack on May 31, 2017. He became emotional as he announced an internal investigation had revealed video evidence of excessive force and cover-up attempts.
Two deputies and a jail official were fired and faced charges of falsifying police reports and other counts, and Bell said jail operations would be revamped to ensure that no other abuse occurred.
The county had fought to keep the video from being released.
© 2019 The Canadian Press