Inmate files $1 million lawsuit against Cameron County and two jailers

Mar. 4—A former Cameron County inmate is suing the county and two of its jailers for $1 million alleging he was beaten by the jailers while incarcerated.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Joel Alonso Alanis-Mejia, alleges the county jail system has a history of jailers using excessive force against inmates.

Alanis-Mejia was allegedly beaten by jailers Raul Galarza and Mark Solis while Alanis-Mejia was incarcerated at the Carrizalez-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito in September 2014, the lawsuit reads.

It is unknown if Galarza and Solis are still employed by the county, and it is also unknown if they have hired attorneys to represent them. Cameron County officials did not respond to The Brownsville Herald for comment by press time.

"This unwritten policy of permissible use of excessive force has deep roots going back decades to Carrizalez's opening. Sheriff Conrado Cantu took office as sheriff in 2001 and oversaw Carrizalez when it first opened in 2004," a portion of the federal lawsuit stated. "In 2004, a correctional officer, Lt. Hilda Trevino, blew the whistle on fellow guards' mistreatment of inmates.

"That same year, Gail Hansen, a chaplain ministering to inmates at Carrizalez, provided evidence of commonplace illegal activities under Sheriff Cantu."

The lawsuit states abuse by guards also continued when Sheriff Omar Lucio took over in 2005, although Lucio had vowed to clean up jail abuses by guards.

A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for May 30 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan.

Alanis-Mejia was booked into Carrizalez on Sept. 10, 2020, on an outstanding warrant, that alleges he was unaware of, according to the lawsuit. While jailed at the facility, Alanis-Mejia underwent suicide screening because he had recently lost his parents.

The lawsuit alleges jailers Raul Galarza and Mark Solis began demeaning Alanis-Mejia and ridiculing him because he was crying over the death of his parents. "Galarza and Solis intentionally escalated the interaction by commenting in a derogatory fashion about Alanis' mother."

The demeaning comments against Alanis continues and the guards purposely made the comments to cause him more stress, the lawsuit states.

"Defendants Galarza and Solis acted unprofessionally and in a manner they knew would cause additional stress to Alanis' situation for no legitimate reason other than to bully Alanis because defendants Galarza and Solis were in a position of authority, power and control to do so," the lawsuit stated.

As they were walking to a jail cell where Alanis was to be housed, they continued to yell at him and at one point Galarza then proceeds "without provocation or justification to push Alanis forward," the lawsuit stated. The actions caused Alanis to become startled and turn around, and this is when the attack by the jailers began.

The jailers "violently slammed Alanis into a wall and then tackled him to the ground with both officers leaping on top of him," the lawsuit stated. Alanis' head was forcefully slammed to the ground and "Galarza violently punched and hit Alanis' head, face and body as his blood spilled to the ground."

Alanis was "left in that state for two hours, until he was taken to the Valley Regional Medical Center," according to the lawsuit.

"There have been multiple reports between 2012 and 2020 of Carrizalez guards provoking inmates in order to get reaction from the inmate and then beat the inmate," the lawsuit stated.

The jailers are further accused in the lawsuit of fabricating their statements. Alanis Mejia is also accused of striking Galarza in the chest.

Both jailers acted under color and are not entitled to qualify for immunity because the excessive use of force violated Alanis-Mejia's Fourteen Amendment constitutional rights, the lawsuit alleged.

Alanis-Mejia is seeking $1 million in exemplary damages as well as the cost of attorney's fees. He is also seeking a jury trial.

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