AP NEWS

Ex-prison guard trainee takes deal in Nevada inmate’s death

October 30, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former guard trainee who acknowledged firing fatal shotgun blasts that killed a handcuffed inmate in a Nevada prison hallway nearly five years ago has taken a plea deal, officials said Wednesday.

An attorney for the family of the inmate called the deal a “slap on the hand.”

Raynaldo-John Ruiz Ramos entered a so-called “Alford plea” on Tuesday to a charge of attempted performance of an act or neglect of duty in willful or wanton disregard of safety or persons or property resulting in death. The plea settles the prosecution in the November 2014 killing of Carlos Manuel Perez Jr. at High Desert State Prison.

Ramos’ plea acknowledged that state prosecutors could have presented evidence of guilt if the case had gone to trial. His attorney, Joshua Tomsheck, said the agreement spared everyone “the trauma and expense of a public trial” and allows his client to put the case behind him.

“This resolution was best for everyone involved,” Tomsheck said.

Ramos, an Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq, promised to undergo a Department of Veterans Affairs mental health evaluation and counseling, and complete 10 hours a month of community service for two years.

The case could then be reduced to a misdemeanor and Ramos will not have a felony conviction, according to terms of the plea deal.

Ramos, 39, had faced felony manslaughter and other charges that could have gotten him up to nine years in prison.

Attorney Paola Armeni, representing Perez’s family, said she believed the plea deal arranged by state prosecutors failed to hold anyone accountable for Perez’s death.

“It’s a slap on the hand,” Armeni said. “He’s not a felon. No probation. No fine.”

Armeni represents Perez’s relative, Victor Perez, in a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit against the state, the Department of Corrections, prison officials and Ramos. She noted the attorney general’s office also represents the state and its officials in the lawsuit.

Ramos said in a 2014 report that he fired the fatal shotgun blasts, with another guard and a supervising lieutenant nearby, while Perez and another inmate brawled on the floor of a shower hallway. He said they were kicking at each other with their hands cuffed behind their backs, in what an attorney later characterized as a “gladiator-like scenario.”

Ramos said he warned the men to stop fighting, fired one blank, issued more warnings and then fired three live rounds down the hall. At that point, he said, he stopped to reload.

The other prisoner suffered shotgun wounds to his face and upper body. He survived and was initially blamed for Perez’s death. Ramos was not charged with injuring that inmate.

State prison officials reported Perez’s death the next day, but didn’t mention the fight, the other inmate or that he was shot by a guard at the prison outside Las Vegas. Those details emerged in March 2015, when the Clark County coroner said Perez died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest. His death was ruled a homicide.

Two other guards resigned after prison officials found they made false statements and neglected their duties in the shooting. They were not charged with crimes.

Ramos was fired in April 2015. Tomsheck declined to say how Ramos is now employed.