Video Surfaces of Alleged Disabled Inmate Forcibly Removed From Santa Clara County Jail Cell - NBC Bay Area
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Video Surfaces of Alleged Disabled Inmate Forcibly Removed From Santa Clara County Jail Cell

The Santa Clara County correctional deputies are under the microscope again. Damian Trujillo reports. (Published Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015)

The Santa Clara County correctional deputies are under the microscope again.

An inmate has filed a civil suit, claiming the guards violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The incident that is the subject of his suit happened last year when the deputies had to go into the inmate's cell and forcibly remove him. 

In exclusive video of the jail extraction obtained by NBC Bay Area, deputies can be heard asking the inmate several times to stand up so they can perform a routine inspection of his cell.

After several warnings, the guards ultimately pepper spray the inmate before strapping him down to a wheelchair. The guards take him to what they call decontamination.

When NBC Bay Area spoke to inmate Miller, who did not want his first name published, he was wheeled into the interview room by deputies.

Miller is in jail awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder, domestic violence and witness intimidation.

According to the lawsuit, the inmate's attorney wrote a letter to the county counsel the same day as the extraction. The letter states his client needs a wheelchair because Miller suffers from epilepsy.

The lawyer said the inmate is no longer able to stand following a seizure and fall in jail in March of last year, prior to the extraction, and has the medical records to back that claim.

And ever since, the lawyer claims Miller lost feeling in his lower extremities.

The inmate is now suing the county and the deputies for allegedly violating his rights as a disabled person. He claims he was repeatedly denied use of a wheelchair to transport him to meetings with his attorney and attend hearings.

When asked how he was feeling during an interview with NBC Bay Area, Miller said "I'm in pain, sir."

The inmate also said he was unable to look up at the camera because of the pain from his ongoing medical condition.

"I would have called for a nurse," said Mark Garcia, who worked in the same jail as a guard for almost five years and retired as a sheriff's lieutenant in Santa Clara.

Having reviewed the video, Garcia said the camera should not have panned away when deputies pepper sprayed Miller. Garcia also said wheelchairs are readily available for guards.

"You should know the guy's medical background," Garcia said. "Does he need a chair? Get him one."

But not knowing the entire circumstances around the extraction, Garcia said he saw nothing in the video that was grossly negligent.

"I will not use extraction or order it," said Judge Stephen Manley, who runs the drug and mental court in Santa Clara County.

In general, Manley said extractions of inmates with mental health issues is counterproductive.

Doctors rules Miller is competent enough to stand trial, but that court report also raised some concerns about his mental stability.

"Rather than confront people with force, you confront them with someone who can talk to them about what they need to do," Manley said.

The sheriff's office released a statement saying "while we cannot discuss Mr. Miller's personal situation, those decisions are typically made in consultation with medical staff based on what's necessary for the inmate. We believe that Mr. Miller received care consistent with his medical needs."

The sheriff's office also said in reviewing their internal videos they believe the inmate was moved in accordance with their policies.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is the full statement provided by Undersheriff John Hirokawa

Mr. Miller has been in County jail custody since September 22, 2013 awaiting trial for the attempted murder of his wife. For the duration of his incarceration, he has been evaluated numerous times by County medical staff, including county physicians.

While we are prohibited by federal law from disclosing the conclusions of Mr. Miller’s medical evaluations, in general we can state that inmates receive treatment as appropriate and indicated by their medical evaluations. With regards to providing Mr. Miller with a wheelchair or any other medical equipment, while we cannot discuss Mr. Miller’s personal situation, those decisions are typically made in consultation with medical staff based on what’s necessary for the inmate. We believe that Mr. Miller received care consistent with his medical needs.

As it pertains to removing inmates from cells, County correctional staff carry out its policies based on the needs of the inmates and with regard to both inmate and custody staff safety. While we cannot respond in detail to the movement of Mr. Miller, we can state that in reviewing our internal videos, we believe that Mr. Miller was moved in accordance with our policies.

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