Garfield County inmate files lawsuit
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” A man who was jailed in Garfield County is suing, claiming that a sheriff’s deputy shot him with a pellet gun and strapped him in a restraint chair for several hours.
The lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday alleges the county’s use of the chair “violates international and national standards for treatment of prisoners.”
Sheriff Lou Vallario, who is named in the lawsuit, couldn’t be reached for comment after business hours Tuesday.
Adam Burke, the inmate who filed the lawsuit, claims he was subjected to long hours on the restraint chair on Jan. 24, 2006, after being shot with pellets that release a chemical similar to pepper spray. Burke was shot several times at close range, including twice in his groin, while he was in his cell, according to the lawsuit.
Burke said he was then put on a restraint chair without being able to wash off the chemicals from the pellets for three hours. He alleged he was placed in the chair for four hours on March 4, 2006, because he complained about water on his cell’s floor.
It wasn’t clear why Burke was in jail.
His attorney, Lane N. Cohen, didn’t immediately return a call after business hours.
The lawsuit said the manufacturers of the restraint chair bought by the sheriff’s office state on their Web site that inmates shouldn’t be strapped to the chair for longer than two hours. The chair has wheels and immobilizes the legs, arms and body of the inmate with seven straps so only the head and neck are mobile.
The website states the chair is “intended to help control combative, self destructive, or potentially violent detainees” and that inmates should be monitored and given medical attention if needed.
Cohen wrote in the lawsuit that Amnesty International wrote a letter to the Garfield County sheriff’s office noting that 18 prisoners have died in U.S. jails while strapped to such chairs. He said some of those deaths happened after inmates were “subjected to pepper spray and/or electroshock weapons.”
Cohen also said the American Correctional Association forbids use of the chair as punishment and that it should only be used “in extreme instances” when other types of restraints were ineffective.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified monetary amount.
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Aspen Sister Cities members dedicated a plaque in Sister Cities Plaza to Don Sheeley, who served as president of the organization from 1998 until his death in 2017.