Family sues operator of Texas prisons over their father’s death at hands of guards

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The family of a prisoner who died of brain injuries in a Louisiana jail operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private company that runs several jails in Texas, is suing after video surveillance footage showed that guards likely caused his death, WFAA reported.   

“The hardest part is not knowing what happened, why it happened,” said Tamara Green, daughter of Erie Moore Sr., who died in Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe in October 2015. Green and her two siblings are suing LaSalle Corrections.

The TV station has run a series of stories in the past year that have shown videos of prisoners screaming for help and gasping for breath in Texas prisons run by LaSalle. WFAA has reported that the jails employ inexperienced guards who use too much force and don’t quickly seek medical care for injured prisoners.

The company declined to comment to WFAA for its report on the lawsuit, but has responded in court filings that the force used on Moore was “reasonable and necessary under the circumstances” and that he failed to follow verbal instructions.

Moore was in the Monroe prison on a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace after having an apparent mental breakdown, but the family said he was never given a medical screening during his intake at Richwood. WFAA reported that depositions taken in the lawsuit show that guards were aware Moore was experiencing psychiatric problems. 

Although Moore was initially placed in isolation, another prisoner named Vernon White was placed in the same cell on Oct. 12, 2015, the day Moore was brought to the prison. Interviews with guards show that other empty cells were available at the time. 

Jail records show that White had just fought with another inmate, the TV station reported. White and Moore got into a fight the next day and pepper spray was used on Moore, but the inmates were not separated. Surveillance cameras show that Moore attacked White again later that day, pushing him to the back of the cell out of the view of the cameras. He reappeared into view six minutes later.

Guards did not discover White on the floor until 25 minutes after the incident, suffering from severe injuries from which he soon died.

Moore was pepper-sprayed and hit in the head, according to the footage, although the guard involved claimed otherwise in a deposition. Footage shows he was thrown to the ground twice – including once being dropped on his head – before being taken into a room without video cameras for about 90 minutes.

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