A disturbing footage was released showing a terrifying incident in Washoe County Jail a year ago, that will make you seriously question the normal functioning of the U.S. prison system.
The video shows the terrifying final moments of Justin Thompson’s life, a 35-year-old mentally ill Reno man. Thompson died in unimaginably terrible struggle for breath, after jail deputies pinned him to the floor covering his head with a spit hood during booking procedures.
During the struggle, deputies were insulting Thompson telling him they “owned” him and would make sure he “remembered it.”
For more than half an hour, they took turns tasering, kicking, insulting and crushing the breath from Thompson’s lungs even after he cried several times he is suffocating because of the mask over his head.
When the helpless Thompson screamed out for help, a monstrous deputy even answered with a fierce response, “We are the help!”
“I believe anyone who watches this video will understand why I was concerned about the handling of this incident and why I immediately called for an outside investigation,” said Sheriff Chuck Allen in a written statement. After Allen took the office of Washoe County Jail, a sharp increase of in-custody deaths began.
Justin Thompson was one of three prisoners in Washoe jail who’ve died during a struggle with deputies attempting to restrain them in the past couple of years. The number of death cases includes ten other men who’ve died from suicides, accidents, and natural causes since sheriff Allen took office.
Thompson, who had bipolar disorder and was not taking his medication, was booked into the Washoe jail on August 3, 2016 on domestic battery charges. Once he was imprisoned, he began acting erratically in his cell. He spent more than a day pacing his small cell, stuffing toilet paper in his ears, curling up in a fetal position with his head clutched, and drawing on the cell walls with his own blood.
It took more than a day for jail staff to decide Thompson needed to go to the emergency room. Four hours late, Thompson was returned to the jail from the hospital after receiving antipsychotic drug Haldol at the emergency room. After he was brought back to the jail, a struggle with the deputies took place with a fatal end.
After Thompson was brought back in the jail, he appeared compliant. Then, one deputy grabbed his face, while trying to take a mug shot and pushed it to the side. Thompson, who had his arms chained to his waist, became upset, slipped onto the floor and the struggle started.
“How’s this? Does this feel good,” a deputy says as Thompson lied still, with his wrists still chained to his stomach.
Trying to get Thompson in the stretcher to bring him to the hospital, several deputies took turns kicking him, kneeling heavily on his back and applying painful arm-bar holds.
Yet for half an hour, the deputies were unable to subdue the mentally ill man.
When Thompson complained that he cannot breathe, a deputy answered him back, “No, you’re not being compliant, Justin. We could’ve just rolled you through the process but you’re being a d**k about the whole thing.”
As the deputies continued to put even more mental and physical pressure on him, Thompson became more distressed.
“So now we are to this level and you’re going to get carried in a little wrap because you can’t maintain enough thought to go through this process like a man,” the deputy says. “If you hurt my staff, you are going to catch a felony. Understand? We are not going to get injured by you. And if you lash out, I am going to make sure that you remember it.”
In the next 25 minutes, the footage shows deputies painfully squeeze the air from Thompson’s lungs until he finally stopped breathing.
The video eventually ends with deputies performing CPR on Thompson’s body for 15 minutes, trying to revive him with no success.
Thompson was taken to the hospital and put on life support with no brain activity. It took the deputies five days to inform his family that he had even been in the hospital.
Thompson’s mother, Karen Thompson, spoke to her son the night before he was arrested. He had plans of visiting his family in Bakersfield.
But Thompson never made it home…
His girlfriend called Thompson’s sister as she drove to Reno on August 3 to pick him up and said there had been an accident and Justin got arrested.
Karen Thompson tried to call the Washoe jail to learn more about her son, but was unable to find any specific details.
“I’m frantically calling people,” Karen said. “We didn’t know what happened to him.”
On August 7, Karen received a notification Justin had been released, but he hadn’t been released. The harsh truth is that her son had been declared brain dead at the Renown Regional Medical Center.
The authorities didn’t inform Thompson’s family he was in the hospital for another two days.
“On Tuesday afternoon — the 9th of August — I have a sheriff’s officer here in Kern County that comes in and tells me that my son had passed away and told me he had died of a massive heart attack,” Karen Thompson said.
Karen Thompson described Justin as a person who was always ready to help his close ones in need and even let a friend with cancer move in with him.
When the medical condition of Justin’s father forced him to have his leg amputated, he went to California to help him recover.
“Everybody always talked about how he helped them,” she said. “He was always caring for other people.”
On April 25, 2017, a video with over 25 hours recorded was released to the Reno Gazette-Journal after deputies involved in the incident tried to prevent the videos’ release. District Court Judge Jerome Polaha ordered the footage to be released in public but demanded the sheriff’s office blur the deputies’ faces.
Thompson’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Washoe County. As the Reno Gazette-Journal reports, Sparks Police Department concluded an independent investigation into Thompson’s death in February this year, and found no criminal wrongdoing by the deputies.
What is your opinion on this case?