Nevada prisons are under fire for an ongoing shooting controversy. Two years after a handcuffed inmate was shot and killed, Nevada corrections officers still have access to guns and are reportedly shooting inmates who misbehave. Although it is unusual for corrections officers to use a firearm, Nevada permits deadly force if someone’s life is in danger.
In November 2014, a corrections officer reportedly shot and killed a handcuffed Nevada inmate with a 12-gauge shotgun. The officer and his colleagues contend the shooting was necessary to break up a fight. However, the situation remains controversial, as the corrections officers reportedly sanctioned the fight.
According to some reports, the guards planned and staged a gladiator-style fight between inmates who had their hands cuffed behind their backs. Andrew Jay Arevalo, 24, who was serving six years for robbery, was pitted against Carol Manuel Perez Jr, 28, a two-time felon serving four years for attacking a man with a two-by-four.
Corrections officer John-Raynaldo Ramos, who was a trainee, said he tried to stop the fight, but the inmates continued to scuffle — prompting him to fire a warning shot. Ramos eventually resorted to firing three live rounds at the inmates. Perez was left dead on the floor, with over 200 pellets in his chest and arms and 60 in his face and neck. Arevalo was also shot. However, his wounds were not fatal.
— Dana Liebelson (@dliebelson) April 5, 2016
Ramos said he instructed another officer, Isaiah Smith, to call the prison medical staff while he reloaded his gun.
In his report, Ramos admitted he fired on the handcuffed inmates. However, Ramos claimed it was Arevalo that killed Perez.
“They continued kicking each other even though they were bleeding,” he recounted.
The Daily Mail reports Arevalo was later found guilty of murder and sentenced to 18 months solitary confinement. Although Perez’s death certificate confirms he was shot to death, the corrections officers were not convicted of any crime.
Perez’s family is currently in the process of suing the state of Nevada over the shooting incident.
Two years later, the Nevada prison shooting remains a point of heated controversy. Experts have pleaded with the state to forbid the use of deadly weapons in prison. However, the rules have not changed.
Following the controversy surrounding Perez’s death, an independent organization, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, clamored for the phasing out of birdshot pellets. However, the NDOC refused to budge. In a February court filing, the state remained adamant that officers should have the option of firing a weapon if it is required to restore normalcy and order.
According to a March 24 letter written to the Huffington Post, by a High Desert State Prison inmate, Nevada prison guards are still shooting inmates as a means of maintaining order.
NDOC spokesperson Brooke Keast confirmed and justified the most recent incident, saying the shotgun was used to prevent the death of an inmate. According to Keast, four inmates cornered a solitary prisoner in the yard, assaulting him with crudely made weapons.
— KOLO8 (@KOLO8) March 26, 2016
She said despite firing rubber stingers and a blank round, the prisoners refused to stop the assault. Keast went on to say an officer was forced to shoot three rounds, which subsequently wounded the assailants. According to reports, one of the inmates was hit “in his thigh, buttocks, and neck” and was taken to the infirmary for treatment. The victim had also been stabbed repeatedly.
In American prisons, fights are nothing new. However, the tactics used by correctional officers in the state of Nevada remain unprecedented. While Nevada correctional officers resort to using guns, their counterparts use chemical sprays and Tasers to break up fights and subdue inmates.
According to a Huffington Post investigation, which was conducted from January 1, 2012, to June 26, 2015, Nevada officers fired a live round at least once every 10 days. Nevada prison authorities insist the shootings are rarely fatal, as they shoot at the ground. Although the pellets are expected to ricochet off the ground and may strike the inmates, they are rarely fired directly at the inmates.
Nevada prison officials insist shooting is a last resort to prevent seriously injury or death during violent altercations. However, Nevada prison officials have taken measures to reduce the number of shootings by adding chemical sprays and rubber stingers to the prison arsenal. Nevada police officials are also teaching correctional officers hand-to-hand combat.
The state has continually suffered from an understaffing issue because salaries average around $39,999 per year. Nevada prison officials have argued that officers need to protect themselves with weapons because they are simply outnumbered by inmates.
As long as guns are available to corrections officers, Nevada prison shootings are likely to remain a point of heated controversy.
[Image via Fer Gregory/Shutterstock]