California officers accused of ‘sadistic and terrorizing acts’ against prisoners

Four sheriff’s deputies accused of strangling prisoner and encouraging inmates to throw feces as activists say abuse remains widespread

Four sheriff’s deputies have been arrested amid allegations they committed ‘terrorizing’ acts against prisoners. Photograph: Stephen Lam / Reuters/Reuters

Four California sheriff’s deputies have been accused of “sadistic and terrorizing acts” against inmates, including encouraging prisoners to throw urine and feces at each other, laughing at an assault victim seeking help, strangling an inmate into unconsciousness and intimidating witnesses.

The felony assault charges against four Alameda County deputies, accused of victimizing eight prisoners, have provided a window into the violent abuse and misconduct that prisoners’ rights activists say is still commonplace in some jails across the country, including in progressive regions that have pledged reforms.

Deputies Justin Linn and Erik McDermott are facing charges of assault, witness intimidation and conspiracy to obstruct justice for their actions at Santa Rita jail, a major county correctional facility for parts of the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California, including the city of Oakland.

One victim woke up one morning in November to an inmate throwing urine on him after Linn opened a cell door to facilitate the attack, according to the charges. When the victim pressed an emergency call button to seek aid, “Linn responded to his cell and laughed at him when he made the report,” prosecutors wrote.

The inmate who threw the urine said that Linn had opened the cell door so that the inmate could “gas” another inmate, meaning throwing bodily fluids, according to prosecutors. The inmate who committed the assault said he did not hit the “intended target”, who was a different prisoner with a broken arm.

Another victim said he was sprayed with feces from a shampoo bottle through his cell’s handcuffing port, which should have been closed. Another jail employee also testified to witnessing Lynn facilitate urine and feces attacks, prosecutors said.

McDermott, also accused of opening handcuffing ports to allow an inmate to “gas” others, is further alleged to have strangled an inmate by “placing pressure around his neck with his arm until he lost consciousness”.

Linn and McDermott both intimidated witnesses into staying silent, including by trying to spread rumors that victims and witnesses were “snitches” who were cooperating with law…

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