Guards Laugh as Inmate Dies: Colorado to Pay $3 Million

Colorado has agreed to a $3 million settlement to the family of a mentally ill inmate who died while having seizures as guards stood around laughing. The event was captured on a six hour video.

Denver civil rights attorney David Lane, who represented the family, had this to say:

"The death of Christopher Lopez was easily preventable and was caused by a mentality that the lives of prisoners are worthless. Hopefully, this settlement sends a message not just to Colorado prison authorities but to prison and jail authorities all over the country that the human beings they incarcerate must be treated like human beings."

Three guards were fired, five were disciplined and the Colorado Department of Corrections said:

Their​ actions were well outside of the Department's established training, policies, and practices...

What caused his seizures? According to the lawsuit, it was too much psychotropic medication administered to treat his schizophrenia, which in turn led to low sodium levels and acute hyponatremia.

"Almost all instances of hyponatremia are treatable if a person receives prompt and adequate medical attention," the lawsuit said.

Congrats to David Lane, who is (in my view) Colorado's best civil rights attorney.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Unfortunately, the probable outcome, (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by NYShooter on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 12:25:41 AM EST
    after the initial outrage, speeches, calls for action......

    In 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1.....

    "Ladies and Gentlemen, what occurred here was a terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of #7384694236."

    "But, lets not let the acts of a few rotten apples spoil the good names of the vast number of brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep you and your family safe. They get up every day, put their shoes on one at a time, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

    ... learning.... committee.... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 12:40:31 AM EST
    ... 9/11

    You Forgot the Part... (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 11:35:40 AM EST
    ...where they throw other people's money at the problem to make it go away.

    The quote (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by lentinel on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 10:24:50 AM EST
    by David Lane,
    "The death of Christopher Lopez was easily preventable and was caused by a mentality that the lives of prisoners are worthless."

    makes me think of the way we treat all prisoners.
    Their lives are worthless.

    I also feel, more often than I would like to, that that is the way our government treats the less prosperous among us. They: the guards.
    We: the prisoners.

    "It's unjust", we yell.
    "Well, what are ya gonna do about aholes? comes the response.

    The continuum of law enforcement employees (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 10:34:38 AM EST
    has been explained to me thusly:

    Top tier goes to the FBI.  Candidates who can't make the cut try for the State Cops, then various lower jurisdictions, down to the smallest.  Failing all that, they end up as prison guards.

    There are exceptions and statistical aberrations at all levels.  Buttheads in the FBI, good decent people at all levels in the Policing biz, all the way down to your localist local yokels, whose job choice and ambitions may be dictated by home and family considerations.  

    But the Stanford Prison experiment proved that few ideals survive the Prison Guard experience.

    This just makes me sick (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by sj on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 11:56:26 AM EST
    Cops are people. Just people. The special treatment that they get is just so wrong.

    It's odd. The people who shout "dangerous job!" and help create the entitlement given to law enforcement, are so often the same ones who sneer "entitlement" when it comes to SS or beneficiaries of the welfare system.

    In this particular case at least some people were quite promptly fired, so there's that. But Mr. Lopez is still dead.

    Oh, and Mr. Natural, I read your link. Although I had heard of the experiment before, reading the link was still eye-opening -- and seriously disturbing.

    These guys weren't cops (none / 0) (#8)
    by Slado on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 01:11:23 PM EST
    They we're correctional officers untrained in how to deal with the mentally I'll and apparently criminals themselves.

    It appears they are not getting off Scott free either.  Also not sure how SS fits into a call for better policies in correctional facilities.

    Maybe if we could spend a little less on SS we could afford more training for these officers and better facilities for the mentally ill?


    No way are you taking my (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 05:11:11 AM EST
    SS to pay for cops. Take it from the National Defense budget or bloated DEA budget or any number of things. You aren't touching my SS.

    For you J anything (none / 0) (#11)
    by Slado on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 07:49:52 AM EST
    No SS.  We'll take that off the table.  :)

    I'd rather close one of our many unnecessary military bases around the world and maybe skip on the latest and greatest toy that we don't need.

    Also one cannot discount the reality that the movement to  large state and federal facilities left a huge void that our prison system has been forced to fill.   That was a policy choice and in retrospect a poor one.

    Point being that the funding issues we see on issue like this are because we choose to make other issues more important and in this libertarians eyes the state is less focused on a task it's directly called to perform and is the only entity that can perform but its funding is taken away at the state level by all sorts of other issues that one could argue are not it's main responsibility.  

    On the Federal level it's even easier to find the money, it would just mean both sides making real voices.   I have never had a problem giving the Pentagon less if I thought it'd be used to actually help people.

    This issue as we continue to see touches everyone, from the patients trapped in the criminal justice system to the eventual victims hurt by people who can't get the care they need and we should all be pushing our elected leaders to do something about it.  


    Is San Carlos Correctional Facility (none / 0) (#12)
    by MO Blue on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 08:24:11 AM EST
    privately operated or operated by the state.

    I tried googling for information but was unable to find information.


    Here's a (none / 0) (#13)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 10:26:06 AM EST
    Under Facilities, you can see lists (none / 0) (#14)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 10:28:59 AM EST
    of Public and Private "facilities."

    Thanks (none / 0) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 10:33:27 AM EST
    I actually went to that site but missed the information on the left that gave links to a breakdown of the public and private facilities.

    Seems that the State of Colorado needs better guards.


    Or, (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by NYShooter on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 06:29:06 PM EST
    fewer prisons.

    I stand corrected (none / 0) (#9)
    by sj on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 02:48:09 PM EST
    These guys weren't cops (none / 0) (#8)
    by Slado on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 12:11:23 PM MDT

    They we're [sic] correctional officers untrained in how to deal with the mentally I'll and apparently criminals themselves.

    Thank you.

    Another in a long line of examples (none / 0) (#1)
    by Slado on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 11:59:53 PM EST
    Of how our jails and prisons have become our mental health hospitals.

    Jails the new Mental Hospital

    Kudos to Jeralyn for continuing to publicize this issue.