COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Officers at an Ohio prison watched and laughed behind a locked door as an inmate slipped his handcuffs, pulled out a homemade blade, and repeatedly stabbed four fellow prisoners who were handcuffed to a table and couldn’t defend themselves, according to a civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday by two of the injured men.
Shamieke Pugh and Maurice Lee also allege that officers hadn’t strip-searched the attacker as required and didn’t provide first aid to the bleeding inmates for more than 10 minutes after the June 2017 attack at the maximum-security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
All four survived the attack, which occurred as they were playing cards at a table near where the attacker had been seated. It was recorded on prison surveillance video obtained by The Associated Press.
Lee, now 27, was stabbed twice. Pugh, now 29, said he was stabbed at least 10 times before another inmate freed himself and tackled the assailant.
The man acting in self-defense was pepper-sprayed by officers, but the attacker wasn’t, according to the federal lawsuit.
The suit filed against the warden, two officers and other staff members alleges violations of constitutional rights, including deliberate indifference to potential harm and different treatment of the attacker, who is white, compared with the other inmates, who are black. It also alleges prison staff knew the attacker was a safety threat but failed to prevent the violence.
Pugh believes guards set up the stabbing.
“I did a crime, and I did my time, but the guards got away scot-free after almost killing me,” Pugh said. “That ain’t right.”
The attacker, Greg Reinke, has denied the officers arranged the attack but said they condoned it. Reinke also “stated that he just felt like killing someone,” according to a prison report.
The Scioto County prosecutor said he found no evidence of a setup.
Reviews of what happened found that guards followed prison policies and procedures, and no officers were disciplined, said Chris Mabe, the president of the union that represents the officers.
One of the inmates’ attorneys, Solomon Radner, argues that the guards’ conduct violated constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
“I don’t care what the policies are. I don’t care what the procedures are,” Radner said. “I know what the Eighth Amendment is.”
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Prison officials wouldn’t say how Reinke smuggled homemade knives from his cell and slipped his cuffs. The officers’ union previously said Lucasville has since ended the practice of shackling multiple inmates seated at a table.
Reinke already was serving life in prison for a 2004 shooting in Cleveland. He was sentenced last week to an additional 86 years for the 2017 attack and a guard’s stabbing last year.
Pugh spent two weeks in the hospital being stabbed. The lawsuit also alleges he was punched and kicked by different officers while shackled a year later when he experienced chest pain and sought medical treatment from prison nurses, then was denied medical treatment for resulting injuries.
Pugh was released from prison in December after serving several years for burglary. Lee, now at Madison Correctional Institution, is serving a 10-year sentence on charges including aggravated robbery.
Their lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Having video of the attack is extremely important to the case because it provides evidence in a situation that might otherwise be just the guards’ word versus the inmates’ word, Radner said. He said he hopes the case prompts conversations about having corrections officers wear body cameras as police do.