5 years for ex-guard who used pepper spray in inmates' eyes

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MONROE, La. (AP) — A former prison guard captain was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for plotting to abuse inmates at a privately run federal prison in north Louisiana.

Roderick Douglas admitted spraying pepper spray into the eyes of two kneeling, handcuffed inmates, then passing the can to other guards at Richwood Correctional Center. That statement was part of a guilty plea in February to conspiracy to violate the inmates' civil rights.

Douglas "ignored his role as a caretaker for prisoners and violated the rights of those he was sworn to protect. U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph said in a news release Wednesday.

Four other guards pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up wrongdoing. Demario Shaffer, 34, of Delhi was sentenced to 15 months in prison and David Parker, 28, of Tallulah, to 21 months. Former Lt. Christopher Loring, who stood by during the abuse and participated in the cover-up, is scheduled for sentencing July 18.

Charges against the fourth, Quintail Credit, were dropped because he died before sentencing.

Douglas' signed statement, filed with his guilty plea, is the most detailed account of what happened at the jail near Monroe "on or about Oct. 30, 2016."

It said the officers "rounded up five inmates whom they suspected of gang activity." Lengthy questioning failed to get any to say he was a gang member. The officers took them to an area without security cameras and put them on their knees, facing the walls, with hands cuffed behind their backs.

With a can of pepper spray in his hand, Douglas asked one man if he was a gang member, his statement said. The inmate again said no, and Douglas "sprayed the inmate directly in the eyes."

Douglas did the same to a second inmate, then gave the spray to another guard, according to his statement.

"Co-defendants Demario Shaffer, Quintail Credit, and David Parker each took a turn spraying the remaining inmates in the eyes, while Christopher Loring and another officer, D.R., remained in the room," the statement said.

The injured inmates were taken to have their eyes treated, and all five defendants filed false reports about why they needed treatment. Each said a guard had used pepper spray to control an inmate who had jerked away from him, and the other four inmates were also hit by that single spray, according to Douglas' statement.

The five ex-guards were indicted in March, about five months after inmates sued the jail, the warden and several officers.

"This blatant abuse of power will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Eric Dreiband said. "Today's sentencing demonstrates the commitment of the Civil Rights Division to vigorously prosecute those who inflict cruel and unusual punishment against inmates under their care."

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