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Incident at jail sparks lawsuit

Inmate says he was assaulted with paintballs

SHARE Incident at jail sparks lawsuit

A Cedar City man filed suit Wednesday against the Washington County Sheriff's Office and two of its deputies, charging the men assaulted him with a paintball gun.

Richard Otto Pietras says a deputy in the Purgatory Correctional Facility shot him 11 times at close range while he was locked in a detox cell following his arrest for intoxication, disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer.

The suit seeks at least $75,000 in damages against each deputy and a declaration that the acts violated his constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment and due process.

"He was locked up — it's not like they were in danger," said Pietras' attorney, Brian Barnard. "The only purpose that I can see for doing that is to inflict pain on him."

Deputy Washington County Attorney Matthew Miller declined to comment about the federal suit Thursday. His office was just served with the lawsuit Wednesday and is working on a response, he said.

According to the lawsuit, while in the cell, Pietras "was pounding on the door making a loud sound throughout the intake portion of the facility."

After half an hour of pounding, the two deputies approached the cell. One was carrying a gun, the suit states, which he stuck through an opening in the door and "opened fire point blank."

The cell was no more than 10 feet deep, Barnard said.

The deputy allegedly shot Pietras, who initially was only 2 feet away, 11 times with the gun reportedly filled with paintball pellets. The pellets hit Pietras in the right hip, right arm, left knee and right leg, covering him with paint, the suit states.

According to the suit, many of the shots burst Pietras' skin, causing him to bruise and bleed.

"He had some nasty, nasty bruises," Barnard said.

Pietras sought medical attention the next day, the suit states, but other deputies at the Hurricane jail allegedly declined the request.

Pietras was released two days after the alleged attack. He received treatment for his wounds later that day at a local emergency room, the suit states. Doctors cleaned the open wounds and prescribed antibiotics, Barnard said.

E-MAIL: awelling@desnews.com