LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Four corrections officers at a Nevada prison are facing charges in connection with a riot last December that officials first described as a “disturbance,” documents obtained by the 8 News Now I-Team on Thursday said.
As the I-Team first reported earlier this week, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office filed charges against Quentin Murphy, 37, for allegedly injuring an inmate while the man was restrained. Quentin Murphy faces charges of battery, inhumanity to a prisoner, and oppression under the color of office with the use of physical force, a warrant for his arrest filed in August said.
Three other officers face charges, including Paul Bowerman, Brayan Lopez and Timothy Smith, records showed.
Inmates at the Southern Desert Correctional Center, a medium-security prison north of Las Vegas, caused a riot on Dec. 8. The department initially downplayed the incident when 8 News Now inquired about it, calling it a “group disturbance.”
The I-Team’s Vanessa Murphy learned inmates unlocked their own cells from the inside, refused orders, covered surveillance cameras, flooded the area with water and took control of an entire prison unit.
When officers were able to enter, they lined up in formation. The inmates mimicked the officers, with their own formation, some of them were armed with prison-made weapons such as shanks, threatening to kill the staff, Vanessa Murphy first reported. The ringleader was a known member of the white supremacist Aryan warrior gang.
The I-Team learned officers used Tasers, along with pepper balls, flashbangs and grenades with spray to make it difficult for the inmates to see. Officers reported having trouble breathing because of the smoke from fires the inmates had set and the pepper spray.
While publicly the department claimed 20-to-25 inmates were responsible for what happened, the I-Team learned that internally, at least 40 inmates were considered to be direct participants, and the department had planned to move more than a hundred inmates to other institutions.
According to documents obtained Thursday, Quentin Murphy is a member of the Correctional Emergency Response Team assigned to High Desert State Prison, which is next to Southern Desert.
The officers entered the rioting unit, and restrained each inmate, the document said. Each inmate was then escorted out of the unit due to damage to it, the document said.
Paul Lunkwitz, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Nevada C.O. Lodge 21, a union that represents correctional officers, previously told Vanessa Murphy that staff inside the jail feared for their lives and did not have the resources they needed.
“During the [review of security footage], it was discovered that on two separate occasions… Quentin Murphy was engaged in using force unnecessarily by willfully employing excessive and unauthorized force against [an inmate],” the document said. The document also indicates Quentin Murphy “witnessed another officer conducting unnecessary and unauthorized force against inmates in [the unit].”
While escorting the inmate out of the unit, Lopez is accused of using his knee to strike the inmate, the report said. The report said Bowerman was in the area with two other corrections officers at the time.
Quentin Murphy pulled the inmate, who was in restraints, toward a wall, and the inmate’s head hit the wall, documents said.
“A few seconds later, Officer Murphy pulled inmate [redacted] toward the wall again with such force that the inmate’s head made contact with the wall and his pants [fell] down past his knees,” the report said. “The video clearly displays Officer Murphy using unauthorized force unnecessarily and willfully being excessive against inmate [redacted].
The report also noted no officer reported the use of force.
An inmate told investigators in January that he was zip-tied when an officer in “full armor approached him and kneed him in the midsection, knocking the wind out of him,” the report said.
Murphy declined to be interviewed by investigators in April, the report said.
The report does not mention Smith’s alleged involvement, but court records show the charges against him are in connection with the December incident.
Jail records show Las Vegas Metro police arrested Murphy on Friday. He was released on his own recognizance and was not required to post bond.
Bowerman faces charges of battery, inhumanity to a prisoner and oppression under the color of office with the use of physical force, records showed. He was issued a summons and is due in court in October.
Lopez faces four counts of battery, four counts of inhumanity to a prisoner, and four counts of oppression under color of office, records showed. He entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday. He was not due to return to court until January.
Smith also faces charges of battery, inhumanity to a prisoner, and oppression under the color of office with the use of physical force, records showed. He was issued a summons and is due in court in October.
William “Hutch” Hutchings stepped down from his position as warden of the Southern Desert Correctional Center on July 15, according to the department.
Hutchings was employed at the department since May of 2020, Deputy Director William Quenga wrote in an email to the I-Team in July. Quenga also wrote that “Warden Hutchings voluntarily resigned for personal reasons.”
An NDOC spokesperson declined to comment due to the ongoing cases but did respond to a request for the four officers’ employment statuses.
Bowerman, Quintin Murphy and Smith were all on administrative leave as of Thursday. Lopez resigned in January, the spokesperson said.