Former inmate sues Alameda County Sheriff’s Office deputies for alleged ‘gassing’

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David Rodriguez/File

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A former Santa Rita Jail inmate filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and four former deputies had repeatedly assaulted him with feces and urine and broke his arm.

Fernando Miguel Soria accused the deputies of excessive force, denial of medical attention and a conspiracy to violate his civil rights.

Soria spoke about the matter in a press conference Tuesday outside the Alameda County courthouse in Downtown Oakland. He said he had been sprayed with human waste — known as “gassing” — about seven to eight times from September to November 2016 but is not sure why he was targeted.

“I can’t figure that out,” Soria said in the press conference. “That’s something I’ll have to work out with a psychologist or something.”

The deputies named in the lawsuit — Justin Linn, Erik McDermott, Stephen Sarcos and Sarah Krause — were arrested last year by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office following an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office. According to the SF Chronicle, they were charged with six counts of assault for the alleged attacks and no longer work for the Sheriff’s Office.

Soria’s attorney, DeWitt Lacy, said Soria and the Law Offices of John L. Burris are pursuing the lawsuit for two main reasons: accountability and compensation. Because officers are entrusted with a lot of power, Lacy said the public needs to know about cases of power abuse. Furthermore, Lacy said Soria must be compensated for the “torture” he underwent during his time in prison.

“For the life of him, he cannot figure out why he was targeted. But it’s going to take a lot to help him deal with that and the reality of being gassed over the course of several months,” Lacy said. “He deserves to be compensated, and we want to bring it to a jury to ensure that Fernando gets fair and adequate compensation for the harms that were done to him.”

Soria was booked into the Santa Rita Jail in late August after resisting arrest at the John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro. According to the lawsuit, Soria was picking up a prescription refill but became involved in a struggle with staff members.

“Hearing and interviewing Mr. Soria was challenging because when you hear things like this, it’s very hard to believe — even for someone like me, who has been doing civil rights litigation for over a decade,” Lacy said. “The deputies’ actions were clearly reprehensible and clearly against professional standards in law enforcement.”

According to Lacy, all four defendants are currently awaiting preliminary hearings in which a judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a trial.

The Sheriff’s Office could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Jenny Weng is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.