LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada attorney general on Monday charged a former prison guard trainee with involuntary manslaughter in the shotgun killing of a handcuffed inmate in a prison hallway in 2014.
Raynaldo-John Ramos is accused of firing the shotgun blasts that killed Carlos Perez Jr., 28, while Perez and another inmate brawled at High Desert State Prison outside Las Vegas. The other prisoner suffered shotgun wounds to his face and upper body, but Ramos was not charged with injuring him.
An attorney for Perez's family alleges guards staged a "gladiator-like scenario" by releasing the two men into a shower hallway where inmates are supposed to be kept apart for disciplinary reasons or safety.
Two other guards resigned after prison officials found they made false statements and neglected their duties in the shooting, but they have not been charged.
The Nevada Department of Corrections dismissed Ramos in April 2015. Phone calls to a number in Las Vegas associated with him have gone unanswered. A lawyer representing him in a federal wrongful-death case didn't immediately respond to messages.
The criminal complaint filed in Clark County District Court also charges Ramos with reckless disregard resulting in death. A conviction on both felonies could get him up to nine years in prison.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a statement that he does not take lightly charging a state correctional officer, but that prosecutors believed criminal charges were warranted.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and its new director, James Dzurenda, declined to comment.
Department documents made public last week in a federal lawsuit put most of the blame for the November 2014 shooting on former guard Jeff Castro. Officials also found Castro used unauthorized force and engaged in insubordination and unbecoming conduct for bringing unwanted scrutiny to the department.
Guards have a history of using gunfire to control the 4,200 inmates at High Desert State Prison, about 45 miles outside Las Vegas. Records made public last year showed that guards fired 215 shots in a five-year span, including 60 in 2011. By comparison, guards fired 124 shots during the same period at the state's 17 other prison facilities combined.
Ramos is believed to be the first former Nevada prison guard charged with shooting an inmate since Paul Chaffee in 2007. Chaffee, who also worked at High Desert State Prison, was acquitted of battery with a deadly weapon.
Cal Potter, an attorney for Perez's family, called the criminal complaint filed Monday a welcome development but "a half a cup of justice."
"It's interesting they charged only the trainee and not the ones who were doing the training and stood by and did nothing to stop it," Potter said.
He noted that no one was charged with shooting Andrew Arevalo, 25, who is now being held at the maximum security state prison in Ely. He is serving a two- to six-year prison sentence for a 2013 burglary conviction.
"Finally," Arevalo's lawyer, Alexis Plunkett, said of the criminal filing. "I think they avoided this until the recent release of those records left them with no other choice."
She referred to federal lawsuits that name Ramos, Castro and former corrections officer Isiah Smith, along with prison administrators and the state.