What happened next is the subject of a federal civil rights complaint from Guglielmo, who served as an operating room technician in the Air Force.
“Three of them went in and beat the crap out of him,” his attorney, Jennifer L. Branch, told The Washington Post.
One guard, Matthew Snyder, “beat Guglielmo repeatedly and threw him against the concrete wall,” the complaint says. Snyder reportedly “delivered closed-fist strikes to Mr. Guglielmo’s head, eye area and abdomen” while other guards watched.
Afterward, a nurse gave Guglielmo ice packs, and guards moved him to a holding cell where he could be closely observed.
But his condition worsened.
Just after midnight, Snyder noticed that although Guglielmo appeared asleep, his feet were twitching, the complaint says. Fifteen minutes later, when guards tried to reposition Guglielmo’s unconscious body to better see him through a window, the 57-year-old was unresponsive.
He was taken to a hospital, where he lay in a coma for four weeks. When he woke up, he was no longer able to walk, his attorney said.
The court documents say he is confined to a wheelchair. He lives in a nursing home and rehabilitation center, and receives round-the-clock care, his attorney said.
On Wednesday, Branch questioned why officers had to go into her client’s cell at all. He was alone and not harming himself or anyone else. And she said the sheriff’s office violated its own policies in dealing with unruly prisoners. An extraction team is supposed to remove problem prisoners from their cells and place them in restraint chairs. And that process is supposed to be videotaped.
It’s the latest in a stream of excessive force claims for the Montgomery County jail. Sheriff Phil Plummer declined to comment for this story. Montgomery County commissioners, who are also named in the complaint, didn’t return messages.
In connection his own criminal case, Guglielmo pleaded guilty to aggravated menacing and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, according to the Associated Press. He was given credit for two days served, and the remainder of the sentence was suspended.
Guglielmo’s complaint mentions several other excessive-force allegations that have put the 900-bed jail under the microscope. A military officer was “viciously beaten and kicked” at the jail in 2006. In 2012, a man died after he was pinned to the ground while officers put their weight on his back until he stopped breathing.
The most recent case involved Amber Swink, who was blasted with pepper spray.
Swink had kicked and spat on the arresting officer and punched a cell window, according to The Post’s Peter Holley. She was pepper-sprayed, then secured in a restraint chair and placed in an isolation room.
Then Sgt. Judith Sealey went into the restraint room and pepper-sprayed her.
Pepper-spraying an inmate was one of several protocol violations that occurred that night, according to Holley’s report. Sealey never filled out a use-of-force report, and the sheriff’s office never burned the video onto a disk.
Swink’s complaint also alleges that “several private meetings were held” within the department to discuss how officials might conceal Sealey’s actions. Department officials eventually decided to destroy electronic data and reports to prevent litigation, the complaint states.
Guglielmo’s legal action comes as law enforcement agencies are under intense scrutiny for using force against suspects.
Last year, 963 people were shot and killed by police, including 241 who had some form of mental illness. The year before, 991 had been shot dead by police, 254 of whom had signs of mental illness.
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