Riot in December first described by officials as ‘disturbance’
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Nevada corrections officer facing charges with three others in connection with a prison riot last December is accused of using unnecessary force four times, documents obtained Tuesday said.
As the 8 News Now I-Team first reported last week, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office filed charges against Brayan Lopez for the alleged incidents after the riot, which was first described by the Nevada Department of Corrections as a “disturbance.”
Three other officers face charges, including Paul Bowerman, Quentin Murphy and Timothy Smith, records showed.
Lopez is accused of “using force unnecessarily” with “excessive and unauthorized force” during four incidents following the riot, documents said.
In the first incident, Lopez and another officer are escorting a restrained inmate down a hallway. Video shows Lopez “[pushing] the inmate toward a wall,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
In the second incident, Lopez struck an inmate “in the midsection” using his knee, documents said.
In the third incident, Lopez again uses his knee to hit a restrained inmate, documents said.
In the fourth incident, Lopez “forced [an] inmate’s head to make contact with a cell door,” documents said. The inmate was restrained at the time.
One inmate later told investigators “he did not feel safe” discussing the issue while the officers were working, documents said.
Lopez faces charges of battery, inhumanity to prisoners, and oppression under the color of office with the use of physical force. He entered a not guilty plea on Aug. 30, 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.
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.
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 has 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 last week. Lopez resigned in January, the spokesperson said. A booking photo for Lopez was unavailable on Tuesday.