LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The mother of an inmate who died inside a Nevada state prison disagrees with findings from the Clark County Coroner’s Office, she told the 8 News Now Investigators.
Christian Walker, 44, was found unresponsive in a cell at High Desert State Prison on April 15. Correctional officers used force against Walker two days before his death.
“A man that should be alive was murdered,” James Urrutia, who is representing Walker’s mother, Annette Walker, said.
“She’ll never get over it,” Urritia told the 8 News Now Investigators. “You don’t get over the loss of a child.”
Walker’s manner of death was natural causes and 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.
Urrutia said 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, ran from officers, 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 he believed the coroner’s report omits facts and contains inconsistent facts.
“We know from various sources that facts that should be in there are not in there,” Uruttia said. “We’ll pursue the truth of those facts through litigation and that will all come to light as the case unfolds.”
Uruttia said that he will likely file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Corrections on Annette Walker’s behalf.
The 8 News Now Investigators reached out to NDOC. A spokesman said that the department could not comment due to the pending litigation.
NDOC Director James Dzurenda previously requested an investigation by both the Attorney General’s office and the Nevada Department of Public Safety.
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.
Return Strong, a group that advocates for inmates and their families had been working with Walker to try to get him pardoned due to the circumstances of the crime.
“One hundred and twenty-two days ago, Christian Walker was murdered at High Desert State Prison. Murdered by corrections officers who are yet to have been held accountable, and the coroner appears to be in cahoots with these officers.
It is incomprehensible, how anyone, let alone a trained professional coroner, can find a man with blunt force trauma to the head, laying unresponsive in a pool of his own blood could have died from “natural causes”. It is a travesty and should immediately cause for the coroner to be independently investigated.
Here is what we know.
Christian was highly respected by everyone who crossed his path. He loved art, writing, and his family. His smile was contagious. He was a prisoner but he was not an inmate. After over two decades in prison, he was close to completing his prison sentence.
Christian was an amazing blessing to the world. We needed, and he deserved, to be free.
We have waited 122 days to see if this murder would be covered up by the coroner. Now, we know the coroner will try, if we stand by and let it. Now, it’s time for the uproar.”Jodi Hocking, executive director of Return Strong
The 8 News Now Investigators 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.”