By Monica Alonzo
By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Robrt L. Pela
On Farias' first day in the jail, he was "clammy" and in pain, according to inmate Armando Salgado. "Armando described Juan to be calm, but had a very clammy and/or sticky appearance. Armando observed that Juan talked with his eyes almost closed, as if he was in a lot of pain when he spoke," detectives wrote.
Officer Dallas Uphold was one of many jail guards who saw Farias have a seizure on his first day in the jail. Uphold said Farias "began shaking violently and then fell to the ground. He said that he asked for medical personnel to respond and that they responded and removed Mendoza," detectives wrote.
That's not the only seizure Farias had. At the jail's intake, Officer Adrianne Epperson also saw Farias experience a seizure and heard what sounded like vomiting noises.
The jail's medical personnel saw Farias, but their actions are redacted from the records. What is clear is that within hours, Farias was released back into the general population. Officer Rutherford (no first name listed), a guard who observed Farias firsthand, thinks that decision was fatal, according to her interviews with detectives.
Jail medical staff also put Farias on the anti-seizure drug Dilantin.
That's notable because Farias' "fights" with guards reportedly resulted from his acting confused, "crazy," and failing to obey guards' commands. Some of the most common side effects of Dilantin are confusion, hallucinations, and unusual thoughts or behavior. The day after Farias saw medical staff, he exhibited unusual behavior — possibly from alcohol detox or, perhaps, from the Dilantin. The fact that Farias couldn't understand the guard's commands in English obviously made matters worse.
Inmates report that Farias was acting "crazy" but not violent. They said he talked about having barbecues and missing his family. They also said he tried to eat a bar of soap and constantly talked about food because he was so hungry.
Inmate Gabriel Chavez remembers that Farias "became frightened when they shut the cell door and would bang on it. [Chavez] noticed that [Farias] was shaking and talking . . . Mr. Chavez remembered waking up one night and seeing the inmate sitting on the floor of the cell, killing insects with his shoe," investigators wrote.
Guards told investigators that Farias was acting as though he were on meth, but Farias wasn't on drugs, the autopsy shows.
When Farias ignored the guards' English commands, the guards grew frustrated and increasingly violent, inmates told investigators. Farias appeared to be "fighting for his life," one inmate said.
The guards locked Farias alone in an isolation cell. When they fired pepper balls through the hatch on the door, Farias attempted to block the projectiles with a mattress.
"As soon as he saw the pepper ball coming in, that's when he pulled one of the mats, the mattress to protect himself. And that's when Officer Keever saturated the, um, the cell. And that's when Sergeant Straight had advised or told me . . . to go back," Officer Yazzie told detectives.
Yazzie added that before guards engaged Farias, he was uncooperative but not violent. "He wasn't kicking or trying to bite nobody, but you know he kept us from securing him," he said.
Detectives interviewed more than 25 guards in the Farias case. Each told detectives that appropriate force was used, in their opinion, during the altercations with Farias. But their statements are revealing.
Officer Chauntel Dwight said officers sprayed so much pepper spray into Farias' cell that they "were choking, including herself, and she almost got sick to her stomach because of the smell from the pepper spray," detectives wrote.
"It should be noted that Chauntel became very emotional toward the end of the interview, and she clarified that she was upset about Sergeant Wardlaw's decision in regards to putting Mr. Mendoza Farias back into general population [after his seizures]," they added.
Officer Richard Keever, who acknowledged that he fired between eight and 12 pepper balls at Farias, told detectives that Farias was shaking during the incident. Investigator J.G. Edward summarized his interview by writing, "Whatever they threw at him, the inmate would absorb it. As time went by, the inmate started to shake — not like a nervous shake."
After the pepper balls and after another officer shot Farias with a Taser, Officer Ronald Heino shot Farias with a Taser an additional 11 times, according to his recollection of events.
"And then I pulled out my Taser and I shot, and I must have hit him because he went down, kind of face first and towards the back of the cell," Heino said in a sheriff's interview.
Heino then described the next 10 times he shot Farias with a Taser. "I stood at the door while they went in with this gun shield . . . There was a lot of pepper spray in there . . . And the lieutenant told me to continue to Tase him. And then I let it off and then I Tased him again. And I think it probably went three or four times . . . There was a lot of people fighting with him . . . And they couldn't put him in handcuffs. So then I took my Taser and I went in and I Tased him in the, I believe it was the back right cap . . . and I Tased him there several times. Nothing happened. And then I moved up, I Tased him once in his, in his butt. And then, ah, and then I looked forward and the officers still couldn't crank his arm back to get him in handcuffs. And he wasn't moving, so I, ah, Tased him, I believe. I'm not for sure. I believe it was in the shoulder or, like, in the back of the, ah, triceps area . . . And after all this Tasing he just, ah, just didn't respond to it."
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