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Monday, May 26 2014 05:59 PM

Former Wasco State Prison inmate suit blames attack on guard's negligence

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BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

A former Wasco State Prison inmate is suing the facility and state department of corrections alleging that a correctional officer's negligence led to him being attacked by three inmates who were supposed to be banned from his area of the prison.

Rory Jordan, 52, was serving a two-year sentence for inflicting corporal injury when the June 23, 2013, attack occurred. Jordan was released from prison in December after serving eight months and now lives in Fresno.

Jordan's attorney, Vonn Christenson, filed a personal injury lawsuit on his behalf April 25 against the Wasco State Prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, prison correctional officers J. Lopez and J. Garcia, and inmate Scott Henson.

The suit claims that around 9:13 a.m. Lopez was "observing and conducting" the morning meal in the day room of the prison for the general population, which included Jordan.

Inmates from two sections of the prison were already eating and Lopez apparently went to open a third section of the general population, but instead accidentally opened the lower B section.

The sections of the prison house different types of inmates. Lower B, also known as the 25ers, or sensitive needs yard, were released into general population. They are deemed a higher risk to the other inmates and are considered disruptive inmates, said CDCR spokesman Jeffrey Callison. They were not supposed to be among the general population.

Defendant Scott Henson was an inmate in the sensitive needs yard, according to the complaint.

When the sensitive needs yard doors opened, several inmates reportedly ran out of their cells and began fighting with the general population.

Jordan claims Henson and two other inmates attacked him, injuring his right shoulder, right elbow, right ribs and lower back.

Christenson said his client does not not know why he was attacked.

During the melee, Garcia used his pepper spray in Jordan's face, causing irritation to his eyes and his hair to fall out. Jordan claims that despite being a victim in the fight, Garcia tightly handcuffed him.

Order among the inmates was restored when Lopez fired one 1006 impact projectile round from his 40mm launcher into the scrum.

According to a court document, Garcia later apologized to Jordan multiple times for spraying him in the face.

Christenson said his client did initially go through administrative appeals within CDCR.

"During that, the Department of Corrections admitted there was failure to obey regulation," he said. "But they denied (Jordan's) appeal because of his request for monetary damages."

The amount of damages Jordan is seeking has not been specified but exceeds $25,000. He also is seeking punitive damages.

CDCR declined to release the first names of the two guards involved in the incident.

"I can't comment on this pending lawsuit, but I can tell you that the safety and security of staff and inmates is a top priority for CDCR, and the department does all it can to ensure that our facilities are safe," said Callison.

The complaint alleges Jordan suffered significant pain and suffering, numbness on his right side and in his right hand, cystic swelling and bursitis in the right elbow, mental anguish, anxiety, depression and interrupted sleep. He has reportedly been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The suit accuses correctional officers of negligence, and Henson of acting with reckless abandon.

CDCR has 60 days to respond to Jordan's complaint from the day it is notified. As of May 19, it had not filed a response with the Kern County Superior Court.

The next court date is set for Aug. 8.

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