LAS VEGAS (AP) – A Nevada prison inmate was handcuffed when was shot and killed by a guard last November, according to a lawyer who said that her client was wounded in the same shooting but survived.
Carlos Manuel Perez Jr. was slain with his hands cuffed behind his back, attorney Alexis Plunkett said. Inmate Andrew Jay Arevalo was also handcuffed and "miraculously survived three shotgun blasts to the face," Plunkett said.
"This is what I clearly consider to be an excessive use of force," she said in an email to The Associated Press. Plunkett said she represents Arevalo, not Perez, and plans to sue the guard, prison officials and the state.
"This is a terribly tragic and completely unnecessary shooting," Plunkett said.
Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy said Wednesday that he ruled Perez's death a homicide from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest and arms.
Murphy noted his ruling meant Perez, 28, died at the hands of another person. It didn't establish fault.
Nevada prisons chief Greg Cox said in a statement issued after the coroner's ruling became public that Arevalo and Perez were fighting when a guard at High Desert State Prison opened fire.
Policy and procedure were followed in contacting the coroner, Las Vegas police and the prisons inspector general, Cox said.
The Department of Corrections director didn't mention handcuffs and didn't identify the guard. But he said the shooter was one of three correctional officers who remain on administrative leave pending completion of a Nevada Department of Investigations report and a review by the state attorney general's office.
Patty Cafferata, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, said the case will be evaluated and appropriate action will be taken. Laxalt's office also could be called on to defend the state in wrongful-death and excessive-force lawsuits.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Sandoval referred questions about the case to Cox.
Perez and Arevalo were being housed separately in a disciplinary wing where inmates are handcuffed behind their backs when they are outside their cells, and no more than one inmate is usually allowed out of a cell at the same time, Plunkett said.
"Procedure was followed because Perez and my client were both handcuffed," the attorney said. "But procedure was not followed because they were out of their individual cells at the same time.
"Obviously, in light of the shooting, the procedural violation is the least of the issues."
Plunkett said she has talked with an attorney for Perez's family. But she declined to identify the attorney.
Deputy Clark County Public Defender Claudia Romney represented Perez when he pleaded guilty in December 2012 in Las Vegas to battery causing substantial bodily harm, but she doesn't represent him now.
Records show that Perez was sentenced in February 2013 to 18 months to four years in prison. Police said he hit a man in the head with a two-by-four piece of lumber while man was walking with his daughter and son on a downtown Las Vegas street.
Perez was previously convicted of felony domestic battery for choking his girlfriend nine months after their baby girl was born. He was sentenced in May 2010 to one to three years in state prison.
Arevalo, 24, pleaded guilty in June 2013 in Las Vegas to burglary and was sentenced in August 2013 to two to six years in prison.
Prisons officials issued a 78-word statement the day after Perez died saying he had been in prison since March 2013, that an autopsy and investigation would be conducted, and that no further details about his death were available at that time.
The statement didn't say Perez had been shot or that Arevalo had been wounded.
At the state Legislature in Carson City, elected officials were surprised Wednesday to learn that a prison guard shot and killed an inmate a full 19 weeks earlier.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, said it was the first he heard of the case.
Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, a committee member, said he wanted to know what happened.
"There needs to be more of an investigation," said Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, the Democratic Assembly floor leader.