According to a new lawsuit, two federal prison guards in Brooklyn allowed a gang member to attack a fellow inmate causing horrific damage. The injured inmate, Rafael Lopez, alleges in his new lawsuit that the Metropolitan Detention Center knew that Douglas Mendoza was a disturbed person and affiliated with the notoriously violent MS-13 gang.
The alleged attack took place in September 2016 when Lopez was watching a baseball game in the community room of the Sunset Park prison. Mendoza, who is in prison for murder, then changed the channel. According to Lopez, this sophomoric power play was meant to increase Mendoza’s status among his fellow gang members. After a brief argument, Lopez said that everyone calmed down until Mendoza returned with a sock filled with padlocks. Mendoza then brutally battered Lopez, all within full view of two security guards. Refusing to intervene, a riot squad eventually stopped the bludgeoning. Lopez was left with broken ribs and a lacerated kidney. Unable to protect him from Mendoza, the prison put Lopez in “special housing” for three months before transferring him to another federal jail.
Lopez and his lawyer argue that not only should the prison guards have intervened, but the prison should also be held responsible for not proactively removing a well-documented threat. According to the lawsuit, the prison had been on notice about Mendoza. Numerous inmates had complained that the MS-13 gang member was armed and dangerous. Presiding over one of his cases, Judge Leonard Wexler noted that he was “making motions with his body, which are not normal” and he had a “faraway look in his eyes.” After receiving a psychiatric evaluation, Mendoza was never given medication.
Lopez believes the prison should be held responsible for its failure to protect him from the actual attack and its failure to remove a well-known threat to inmates. The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment to the New York Daily News.