Another inmate is suing the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for failing to protect him from another prisoner and others acting on that prisoner's behalf when, he contends, it should have known to do so.
The department has a duty to protect inmates, said Cameron Williams, and as a result of the lack of protection, he was stabbed multiple times.
Williams, who is serving a 24-50-year sentence for second-degree murder and other crimes in Douglas and Sarpy counties, is suing the state, the department, Director Scott Frakes, Tecumseh State Correctional Institution Warden Brad Hansen and Attorney General Doug Peterson.
Williams began his sentence in September 2010. About six months later, then-17-year-old Jonathan Armendariz was convicted of killing Williams' brother, 18-year old Kyle Williams of Bellevue. Armendariz was sentenced to 90 years to life and began serving his sentence in September 2011.
Cameron Williams' mother was told by the state and Attorney General Peterson that she would be advised when Armendariz was moved within the prison system, and that he would never be placed in the same prison as her son, Cameron, the complaint said. She was not informed as she was told, Williams said.
Cameron Williams said the department and all listed on the complaint were aware that Armendariz and others acting on his behalf posed a threat, and overcrowding presented a foreseeable risk. But the defendants ignored and disregarded the risks, he said.
Armendariz was transferred to Tecumseh, where Williams was housed, in the summer of 2017. No one told Williams, and he did not find out until October of that year. When he did, he reminded defendants of the risk, requested protection and told his mother Armendariz was there.
The department was violating the institution's "keep separate," or central monitoring restriction, he said.
Warden Hansen told Williams' mother when she requested separating the men that she had nothing to worry about because Armendariz was being housed in a restrictive unit for disciplinary reasons, and Williams in the general population. Hansen said they would not come into contact with each other, according to the complaint.
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Frakes was also informed by letter of the problem, and he told Williams to work with Tecumseh unit staff on the situation, Williams said. But the unit manager said it wasn't time for his yearly classification and reiterated they would not come in contact. The deputy warden said the department would handle the situation when the time came.
During his reclassification in March 2018, Williams asked for a transfer to the Nebraska State Penitentiary for his safety. He was eventually approved for transfer, and Williams' mother asked the department to expedite the transfer.
But two weeks later, still at Tecumseh, Armendariz was moved to the same housing unit as Williams.
Williams said that since he had no other way to protect himself, he assaulted Armendariz and was taken to restrictive housing himself for five days. After that, Williams was transferred to the penitentiary and released to the general population, where he believed his life was in danger, he said.
On Sept. 22, 2018, he said staff allowed several other prisoners access to Williams' cell. Those prisoners stabbed him multiple times, he said, and assaulted him, causing a face wound and blood clot, which required surgery.
Williams said the staff told him it was in retaliation for his altercation with Armendariz, which they learned via gang intelligence.
Williams said besides the physical injury, he suffered mental and emotional injuries, loss of property, pain and future medical expenses.
He is asking for damages and court costs, and any other relief the court feels is just.
This is the latest accusation against the department that it is not protecting prisoners it knows are at risk.
Darryl Chambers, 45, is suing Frakes and 10 prison employees after he said he repeatedly warned managers, wardens and administrators he was at risk of assault if not protected. Despite the warning, he said he was assaulted by three other prisoners.
And there is a pending federal lawsuit against Nebraska prison employees in a Scottsbluff man's killing at the hands of his cellmate. The dead inmate's estate contends prison staff should have known the risk when the inmates were placed together.