Three officers from the Sterling Correctional facility are named in a new lawsuit.
Three inmates at that facility claim they were pepper sprayed for their religious beliefs and beaten when they wanted to get an attorney.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that they were targeted because of their religion,” said David Lane, who is representing the inmates in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says on April 16, 2016 Donell Blount, a Muslim inmate, went to attend daily prayer in one of the prison's classrooms that had always been used for it. But when he got there an officer was already using the room.
The lawsuit claims Blount asked the officer to leave, but the officer immediately became “hostile” and refused to leave, demanding Blount return to his housing unit.
Shortly after, the lawsuit says inmates were called to service in the same classroom via the prison’s PA system.
When Blount and two other Muslim inmates entered the classroom the lawsuit says they were “immediately engulfed by a cloud of pepper spray. The gas caused immediate and intense burning to the [inmates’] nose, throat, and skin, among other things, and also exacerbated Blount’s asthma.”
When Blount sought a lawyer to file charges, the lawsuit claims he was threatened by a total of three officers who restricted privileges and transferred Blount to a higher security.
When Blount continued searching, the lawsuit claims he was beaten repeatedly by one of the officers who caused internal bleeding.
“People say things like ‘wow, he should be fired for that,” Lane said. “I say ‘well, yes, he should be fired for that but more importantly he should be prosecuted for that. This is a hate crime based on religion. It's an assault committed because of somebody's religion. If this happened out on the streets whoever did it would be prosecuted.”
The defense attorney in charge of the case would not take questions, deferring to the DOC, who simply said through email “the department will not comment on active litigation.”
Blount is currently serving time for a burglary and home invasion charge.