Guard ripped his own tendon in 'extraction' not caught on tape
Six things to know about the Ornelas case:
The camera didn't work when most-needed.Sergeants at the Valley Street Jail told a corrections officer to use a handheld camera to film what they termed the "extraction" of Ornelas from his cell.
However, the extraction is missing from the video. Video from the handheld camera shows corrections officers at Ornelas' cell door before they enter, and Ornelas can be heard swearing at them. The video then goes dark. The final cut shows blood on the empty cell floor.
The camera malfunctioned because Officer Kyle Slack was unfamiliar with the camera and rapidly ate up memory by filming on high definition, the investigation found.
Video from stationary cameras shows Slack filming Ornelas with the handheld camera as he is brought to and from showers. Slack told investigators he knew how to operate a different camera, but not the camera used for the Ornelas extraction.
"They have this other one that was, like, a smaller one that we don't use anymore," he said, according to a verbatim transcript of his interview with investigators. "And I was, like, I only used that one, and this was the new one, like, a different one."
Ornelas' lawyer, David P. Angueira, said he will have an expert look at the camera once he files a claim and gets access to evidence.
A jail corrections officer hurt his hand during the Ornelas takedown.Ornelas had banged his head on the cell door, urinated in the cell and clogged the toilet, according to the investigation. He refused to calm down, and blasts of pepper spray proved ineffective.
So officials sent three corrections officers into Ornelas' cell for the extraction.
"He went after Officer (Quinniford) Robinson, and missed, and then he turned around and he came off the top - well, came off the bunk," Corrections Officer Todd Gordon told investigators. "That's when I gra - I like caught him in midair. Brought him to the ground standing, and then brought him down to the ground."
Gordon brought Ornelas to the floor face down with such force that Gordon tore the tendons off the bone of his hands, he told investigators.
Corrections officers eventually restrained Ornelas' feet and hands and dragged him to the showers to clean off the pepper spray.
Ornelas complained of a neck injury early on.During jail intake, Ornelas complained to a jail nurse that his neck hurt, yet he was not treated.
"I was just surprised that when he came in and he said that his neck was hurting, I was surprised there wasn't no bracing on his neck," Corrections Officer Abellard Jolly said during his interview.
Jail Superintendent David Dionne said jail nurses weren't alarmed when Ornelas complained about neck pain; he had been in a fight. But Elliot Hospital had examined Ornelas and cleared him medically, Dionne said.
"The nurse looked at him, saw the paperwork and said he was cleared from the hospital," Dionne said.
He pointed out, and the investigation confirmed, that an Elliot Hospital CT scan only went as far as the C2 vertebra. The injury was at the C4 vertebra, which was not captured by the CT scan.
Ornelas suffers from a spinal abnormality, ankylosis spondylitis, which makes his spine brittle, Elliot Chief Medical Officer Greg Baxter told investigators. He believed Ornelas would not have been able to walk out of the Elliot had his C4 vertabrae been injured during the hospital fight.
Investigators asked about a rumor that a corrections officer had kicked Ornelas in the head.Nearly all correctional officers who were interviewed confirmed hearing a rumor that a specific officer, Quinniford Robinson, had kicked Ornelas in the head. None knew where it originated from, and none gave it credence.
Robinson was one of the three officers who extracted Ornelas from his cell.
"He (Robinson) is not one of the 'Oh, I'm a big tough guy,'" said Corrections Officer Ryan Ladd. "I think he's 50, almost 50 years old."
Robinson told investigators he knew of the rumor, but it didn't bother him. He said he has a reputation as an officer who respects inmates.
Camera man no longer works at jail.
Although he couldn't work the camera, Slack gave investigators vivid details about the extraction. Slack had never seen an inmate take as much pepper spray as Ornelas, he told investigators.
He also described Ornelas' injuries after the extraction.
"Like his eyes were swollen shut, and then there was a lot of blood. I think that's what (happened), like, possibly when he fell and when they took him down. It reopened up the hospital injuries," Slack said.
At one point, investigators zeroed in on Slack because Ornelas was alone with him while strapped to the restraint chair. Ornelas was strapped into the chair for about three hours after he was taken from his cell and showered off.
Slack checked Ornelas' restraints, he told investigators.
Deputy Jail Security Chief Brian Martineau said his internal investigation determined Slack was alone in the cell for a minute, then joined by Robinson. Martineau told investigators he didn't believe the two harmed Ornelas, citing their body language.
Dionne said Slack no longer works at the jail, and Slack told investigators he was moving to New Jersey.
Ornelas deteriorated after being strapped down.When strapped into the restraining chair, Ornelas' behavior was initially ranked 4 - imminently violent. He was temporarily hooded to prevent spitting.
Within 15 minutes, his behavior was ranked 2 - mild agitation. He made some threats and would not agree to a search.
Two hours after being strapped down, he was ranked as 1 - acceptable behavior - and he agreed to be searched. He remained in the chair for an hour, which jail officials said is standard procedure.
Corrections officers and nurses described how his health declined in that hour.
"I remember his head on his chest. A couple times ... he was grunting answers, he was moving his head but not like completely lifting it up," said Lt. Bonnie Ives.
"He wasn't responding to us anymore. We cracked smelling salts to try to wake him up. One of the sergeants or officers did a sternal rub, a pretty hard one, to try to get him to wake up, and he wasn't responding," said Corinne Foley, a jail nurse. "He was getting cool to the touch. And then his pupils weren't reactive at all."
- Mark Hayward New Hampshire Union Leader