LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – The head of a group that advocates for better conditions inside Nevada prisons demanded answers about an inmate’s death.
On Wednesday, Jodi Hocking of Return Strong shared her concerns with the Board of Prison Commissioners.
“We are begging you to make sure that who was responsible for his death is punished,” Hocking said.
Christian Walker, 44, was found unresponsive in a cell at the High Desert State Prison on April 15.
Correctional officers used force against Walker two days before his death.
“When we saw the pictures his eye socket was broken. His eye was hanging out,” Hocking said. “His ears were bruised. He had defensive wounds on his hands. It’s clear when you look at this, this was not a… he didn’t die of natural causes.”
The Clark County Coroner determined that Walker died of natural causes.
His cause of death was hypertensive cardiovascular disease, according to the coroner’s report.
Blunt force trauma was noted, but the injuries sustained were not considered fatal and did not contribute to the cause of death, Medical Examiner Stephanie Yagi wrote in the report.
James Urrutia, the attorney representing Walker’s mother told the 8 News Now Investigators that Walker had no history of heart problems.
The coroner’s office listed a series of events before Walker’s death starting at Southern Desert Correctional Center:
April 11: Walker failed to obey commands and ran from officers, then officers sprayed him with pepper spray and took him to the ground.
April 12: Walker was transferred to High Desert State Prison.
April 13: Walker did not obey orders. Multiple officers used force against Walker. He was taken to University Medical Center where he was given stitches to his head.
April 14: Walker is taken back to High Desert State Prison.
April 15: Walker is found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead.
Uruttia said that the coroner’s report omits facts and contains inconsistent facts.
The 8 News Now Investigators asked Nevada Department of Corrections Director James Dzurenda about the allegations of a cover-up surrounding Walker’s death.
“I truly know there wasn’t. I mean we don’t, I don’t have anything to do with the coroner,” Dzurenda said. “I don’t have anything to do with the statement to police, the NDI that did the investigation and we don’t partake in that. That was their conclusion, not ours so we just go on what we believe is based on their professional opinion or decisions.”
The Board of Prison Commissioners is comprised of Governor Joe Lombardo, Attorney General Aaron Ford, and Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar. Aguilar was not present at Wednesday’s meeting.
Uruttia said that he will likely file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Corrections on Annette Walker’s behalf.
Dzurenda requested an investigation by both the Attorney General’s office and the Nevada Department of Public Safety immediately after Walker’s death.
The 8 News Now Investigators first reported in May that four officers were removed from their regular duties. They were placed on a no-contact order on April 17 pending the outcome of an investigation, according to NDOC. This included minimal contact with offenders, not responding to incidents, and no access to weapons, a department spokesperson wrote in an email.
Southern Desert Correctional Center and High Desert State Prison are both located near Indian Springs which is about a 45-minute drive north of Las Vegas.
Walker first went to prison in 1999 and was serving a sentence of 28 years to life with parole for second-degree murder, attempted murder, and two counts of use of a deadly weapon, according to the department.
The 8 News Now Investigators previously reached out to the Clark County Coroner’s office and received the following statement from Coroner Melanie Rouse:
“We do a medicolegal assessment into the cause and manner of death and our determination is based on those medical findings. In this case, which was incredibly extensive, the medical findings are consistent with a natural cause and manner of death, even in the presence of visible external injuries.”