Video in Mendocino County lawsuit shows deputies punching inmate

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UKIAH —Mendocino County, facing a lawsuit over the death of a jail inmate, released surveillance video on Friday showing deputies punching the man as he pleads with them not to hurt him.

The family of the inmate, Steven Neuroth, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and sheriff’s officials in 2015, accusing jail staff of ignoring his medical needs and using excessive force.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said Friday that Neuroth was high on methamphetamine, and deputies used distraction blows to try to subdue him when he became combative.

County officials released the June 2014 video footage after a federal judge denied the county’s request not to disclose it publicly.

In the video, deputies take Neuroth, 55, to the ground after sheriff’s officials say he threw his body sideways when his handcuffs were released. Neuroth had been arrested in Willits on the night of June 10, 2014, on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance.

“Mr. Neuroth pulled away from the deputies and started fighting them and yelling and ranting nonsense,” Allman said.

During the incident, a deputy tells Neuroth to relax and that nobody is trying to hurt him. Deputies take him into a cell, where a deputy who punches Neuroth as he appears to be on the ground accuses Neuroth of kicking him off.

Deputies “did what we call ‘distraction blows,’” which are jabs to the meaty party of the upper legs, calves and shoulders, to try to subdue him, Allman said.

“They did all they could to restrain Mr. Neuroth, who was in the throes of a meth-induced combative state,” Allman said.

After Neuroth mentioned he may hurt himself, deputies put him in a safety smock and placed him in a cell by himself, the sheriff said. When they checked on him a short time later, he was unresponsive, Allman said.

Deputies started life saving measures and called emergency services, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital, Allman said.

Michael Haddad, an attorney for Neuroth’s family, said the video was “shocking.”

“The video completely corroborates everything we’re saying in the lawsuit,” he said.

An autopsy showed Neuroth had contusions and abrasions, a rib fracture and other injuries, according to the lawsuit.

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