(Editor’s note: This story was updated Wednesday evening to reflect new information, namely that the tazing incident occurred in September, not in February as an earlier version of this story reported.)
By Matt Ward
Pahrump Valley Times
A Nye County Sheriff’s deputy was fired and numerous other police officers disciplined after an inmate in the county’s Pahrump detention facility was zapped multiple times with a stun gun while he was shackled and in handcuffs, sources tell the Pahrump Valley Times.
A criminal investigation into the incident is underway and sources say the FBI is involved.
The newspaper has learned that former jail deputy Dan Ellis is at the center of the investigation. Ellis was placed on administrative leave after video of the incident — which the newspaper learned late Wednesday occurred in September of last year — was reviewed by a detective, turned over to the sheriff’s internal affairs section and determined to show excessive force by the officer, possibly rising to criminal battery on a prisoner.
At least five, and perhaps six, deputies who witnessed the incident and failed to report it were also disciplined. One source inside the sheriff’s office who did not want to be named said those officers have since been “retrained.”
Sheriff Tony DeMeo said he would not comment about any open internal affairs investigations. He did confirm, however, that the FBI is looking into the matter.
“We self-reported this to the FBI,” he said.
One source in the sheriff’s office said the inmate in question was causing a disturbance and possibly even hurting himself when he was tazed by another deputy. After the inmate, whose name has not been released, was subdued with restraints, Ellis allegedly continued to taze him.
The inmate was described by more than one police source as a homeless person. A detective was subsequently dispatched to get a statement from the inmate after he’d already been released from jail.
Ellis, meanwhile, was terminated on Feb. 25 after four years with the sheriff’s office. At some point a police report was sent to the district attorney’s office. Sources say criminal charges may be pending against Ellis.
District Attorney Brian Kunzi would not confirm or deny that such an investigation is ongoing. He also would not confirm whether his office has received any reports regarding this incident from the sheriff’s internal affairs office.
“Unfortunately, I cannot offer any comment, because at this stage it is a personnel matter. All employment disputes have to be resolved in accordance with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement,” he wrote in an email response to questions about the case.
Efforts to reach Ellis via telephone and at a Pahrump address were not successful Wednesday morning. A source in county government not authorized to speak about personnel matters told the newspaper that Ellis has filed notice that he will appeal his termination. Sources also say that the deputies disciplined in the matter may seek legal counsel through the Nye County Law Enforcement Association during questioning by the FBI.
Det. David Boruchowitz, president of the association, refused to comment because the matter is ongoing and is a personnel issue. He did confirm that it is customary for the association to provide legal counsel in situations where deputies are called upon to provide information about incidents that result in disciplinary action.
A special agent in the FBI’s Las Vegas field office, who sources say is leading the investigation into the tazing incident, referred questions to a public information officer who did not respond to a phone message left Tuesday evening.
DeMeo said it is his office’s policy to inform the FBI about incidents involving potential civil rights violations. The FBI became involved in this case after the sheriff’s internal affairs investigation was complete and a separate criminal investigation had already commenced.
This is a developing news story. Check back for more details as they emerge.