California jail pays out $1.4m in class action lawsuit as video shows brutal beating of mentally ill prisoner

Civil rights lawyer releases footage of inmate getting tasered and struck with body shield

Adam Forrest
Monday 01 April 2019 15:38 BST
Mentally ill man beaten by Placer County prison officers

Security camera footage showing a mentally ill man being beaten by prison officers has been released after a California county settled a class action lawsuit.

It appears to show Auburn Main Jail inmate Beau Bangert, who reportedly suffers from schizophrenia, getting tasered, punched and smacked the face with a plastic body shield as he is restrained by four officers inside a small cell.

Civil right attorney Mark Merin shared the video of the May 2017 incident with media outlets after a Sacramento judge approved a $1.4 million settlement against Placer County – the local authority which runs the prison.

Money will be awarded to more than 200 people following the lawsuit, which alleged that corrections officers at the jail had used “excessive force”, according to the Los Angeles Times. Attorneys assessed 458 separate claims as part of the settlement.

Mr Bangert, the lead plaintiff in the case, will receive a $250,000 pay out and a separate $50,000 award as part of the settlement.

Devon Bell, of Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said a supervisor reviewing the security camera videos initially brought the footage to managers, who then contacted the county district attorney’s office.

Three law enforcement officials were arrested and charged following a joint investigation between the sheriff’s office and the district attorney.

Although all three were later fired, court records show criminal charges were dropped against one officer, while Robert Madden and Jeffrey Villanueva pleaded no contest to a charge of felony assault, according to NBC News.

“We brought these alleged misdeeds to your attention when they occurred in 2017, and to continue to be transparent we wanted to be the first to release these videos to you, as well, once litigation involving these incidents is over,” said Lt. Andrew Scott for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office in a video statement.

“As you see in the video that has been released to the media, the actions of the officers are troubling and represent conduct that has never been tolerated at our agency.”

Mr Scott said the sheriff’s office had put reforms in place, including additional training for corrections officers on dealing with inmates with mental health problems.

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