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Slain Nevada Inmate’s Family: Guards Created ‘Gladiator’ Scenario

LAS VEGAS — Nevada prison guards created a “gladiator-like scenario” to let two handcuffed inmates fight before a corrections officer trainee fired four shotgun blasts, killing one of the prisoners and wounding the other, according to a lawsuit.

An attorney for the family of slain inmate Carlos Manuel Perez Jr. characterized the Nov. 12 shooting at High Desert State Prison as an execution. State officials declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit filed Tuesday in state court in Las Vegas.

The family’s attorney, Cal Potter, alleges guards and supervisors violated prison policy by allowing two inmates to encounter each other in a shower hallway in so-called administrative segregation — part of the Indian Springs prison where inmates are supposed to be kept apart for safety.

The lawyer referred to the scene as staged. “Officers know they will see a fight if they release inmates that are supposed to be in walk-alone status,” Potter told The Associated Press.

The defendants refused to intervene, according to the lawsuit filed in Clark County District Court. “On the contrary, (they) created a gladiator-like scenario and allowed the inmates to fight,” the lawsuit states.

A statement from the prisons public information office said an investigation of the incident was with the state attorney general’s office. “The Nevada Department of Corrections does not comment on pending or ongoing litigation,” it said.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt received the report March 25 and is reviewing it, said his spokeswoman, Patty Cafferata. Gov. Brian Sandoval has said local, county and state authorities investigated the shooting, and Laxalt will determine an appropriate course of action. An aide to the governor referred questions Tuesday to the prisons statement.

The lawsuit names two corrections officers and a shooter, whom Potter said was a trainee, by their last names only. It also names as defendants the state of Nevada, prisons chief Greg Cox and the warden, assistant warden and a lieutenant at High Desert State Prison.

It alleges wrongful death; excessive force; deliberate indifference to Perez’s medical needs; negligent training and supervision; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It seeks unspecified damages greater than $30,000. Perez, 28, was a two-time felon serving 18 months to four years for hitting a man in the head with a two-by-four in downtown Las Vegas two days before Thanksgiving 2012.

The Clark County coroner ruled Perez’s death a homicide, with a March 3 finding that he died of gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest and arms.

The other inmate, Andrew Jay Arevalo, 24, survived with gunshot wounds to the face, according to his attorney, Alexis Plunkett. The attorney said Arevalo told her that he and Perez were handcuffed when they were shot.

Arevalo is serving two to six years in prison after pleading guilty in June 2013 in Las Vegas to burglary. Plunkett said Tuesday she plans to file an excessive force lawsuit in coming weeks on Arevalo’s behalf.

Potter represents Perez’s brother, Victor Perez, and mother, Myra Perez, both of Reno, and two children, ages 3 and 2.

The lawyer said Perez's family was given conflicting statements during initial meetings with prison administrators after his death, and weren't told Perez was shot. “They were devastated three days later when they went to the mortuary and learned that Carlos had ... multiple gunshot wounds to his face and upper body,” Potter said Tuesday.

Deputy prisons chief Brian Connett has defended the state Department of Corrections as a responsible steward of the safety and security of guards and inmates. He said in a March 27 interview the shooting came in response to two inmates fighting at the prison housing about 3,500 inmates. He said the three corrections officers who were involved would remain on paid leave pending action by the attorney general. (AP)