LAS VEGAS (AP) - Four veteran jail officers won’t face criminal charges in a fatal struggle with an inmate in a Clark County Detention Center more than a year ago, the district attorney in Las Vegas said Thursday.
Prisoner Luis Solano, 38, created a potentially dangerous disruption by resisting officers in a common area of a jail psychiatric unit, and the officers didn’t use excessive force while restraining him, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said.
Wolfson’s 50-page report detailing interviews with inmates, jail officers, supervisors and medical staff came a month after a Feb. 6 public airing of evidence that included security video of Sgt. David Aspiazu and officers Bradley Temple, Patrick Gray and Eugene Dixon struggling to handcuff Solano.
Witnesses told investigators the confrontation began when Solano failed to follow guards’ commands to stop knocking on a control room window asking for water.
Six of 14 inmates who reported witnessing the three-minute struggle said they heard Solano declaring that he couldn’t breathe before he became unconscious on the floor. Several reported hearing officers tell Solano to stop resisting.
Solano died nine days later at a hospital. The Clark County coroner ruled he died of complications of suffocation due to police restraint procedures, and noted renal failure and an enlarged heart.
Solano’s daughter, Carmen Solano, declined immediate comment about Wolfson’s decision. She and her mother, Ima Iliu Flores Zelaya, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last July seeking damages from the city, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the officers involved in the struggle.
The family lawyer, Mitchell Bisson, noted that Solano was 5-foot-11 and 265 pounds, and had trouble putting his hands behind his back for handcuffs. The report noted that officers ended up linking two sets of handcuffs to restrain Solano.
“He wasn’t refusing to comply,” Bisson said. “He couldn’t comply.”
Attorney Craig Anderson, representing the city and the guards in the federal lawsuit, declined to comment.
Each of the guards has been with the police department for at least a decade.
Solano had been arrested Feb. 22, 2013, on cocaine trafficking and marijuana charges. Wolfson said police reported finding more than two pounds of cocaine at his home.
Wolfson said in the report that Solano behaved erratically before he was moved three days later to a psychiatric ward.
The lawsuit said Solano was denied medication in jail that he took regularly for anxiety and other medical conditions.
In the report, an unnamed inmate identified as Solano’s cellmate told investigators that Solano acted jittery, slept on the floor and kept pushing an emergency button in their cell before the confrontation with guards.
The inmate “stated that as soon as he met (Solano) he knew there was going to be a problem,” the report said.
The district attorney said his determination that the officers acted lawfully was based on the evidence he has seen, and said the case could be reopened if new information comes to light.
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