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Prineville man files $5 million police brutality suit

By Mackenzie Wilson
Published On: Nov 05 2012 10:32:06 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 06 2012 04:44:37 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Mackenzie Wilson reports on a lawsuit filed by a Prineville man claiming police brutality in two counties

PRINEVILLE, Ore. -

Curtis Hooper of Prineville is suing two counties, the city of Prineville and 15 people in federal court for more than $5 million. Having had frequent run-ins with the law, he says police in Jefferson and Crook county have harassed him for years. But last year, he says, it was taken to a new level.

Hooper is still recovering from what he says a former Jefferson County Jail deputy did to him in May of 2010.

"It's hard to get over," Hooper said Monday.

Photos provided to NewsChannel 21 show Hooper's left hand last May, bloodied and with his fingernails turning black and blue.

"I passed out -- as soon as they opened the door, I passed out," said Hooper.

Information NewsChannel 21 was given confirms deputy Rob Robbins kicked a steel door shut on Hooper's hand. Eight days later, Robbins was fired. Robbins was charged with assault and later agreed to a plea deal in Wasco County as the case was tried before the district attorney in The Dalles.

"While they did something, it was too little, too late," said Hooper's attorney, Andrew Mathers, who filed the suit late last month.

Mathers says Robbins had been reprimanded several other times for bad behavior. He told NewsChannel 21, Robbins had been written up for assaulting another inmate, pulling over a woman while in his own car and civilian clothes while off-duty and out of his jurisdiction, assaulting Hooper once before the steel door incident, and having sexual relations with a woman who was a former inmate.

All of that is confirmed in the information NewsChannel 21 was given.

After Hooper's fingers were slammed in the steel door in Jefferson County, he was not taken to the hospital. Three weeks after the assault. he finally got X-rays, and found out the bones in two of his fingers were shattered. An auto mechanic by trade, Hooper says he can't work because his fingers still need surgery.

Hooper grew up in foster care and has had his share of run-ins with the law, mostly misdemeanors. His attorney admits that Hooper has a reputation with police for being mouthy and aggressive.

"He's got a foul mouth and he swears and yells in anger," said Mathers.

But Hooper's attorney attributes his client's bad attitude to a fear of law enforcement, combined with his mental illnesses.

Hooper was serving a 90-day sentence for violating his parole when Robbins attacked him. That assault wasn't caught on tape, but Hooper says others were.

Hooper has a hard time watching the video of a Prineville police officer bending his fingers back.

"I hate them -- it's horrible," said Hooper.

The night that video was taken, Hooper's friend called 911 thinking, he'd overdosed on pills. Medics arrived and found him to be fine.

But then the police came.

Hooper says he was handcuffed, pepper sprayed in the face and Tased by Prineville police. Later, they took him to a hospital, where he was restrained.

It's unclear why the officer is touching Hooper in the video in the first place. But it is clear that everyone in the room was made aware the camera was running as one of the people in the room says something to the affect of audio and video are being recorded.

Mathers says what you see in the video of Hooper with Prineville police officers is blatant torture. He added that he was surprised the tape of what happened hadn't been destroyed.

"That's a sign to me that they've done this before and they feel comfortable doing it," said Mathers.

Mathers wants not just the officer bending Hooper's fingers held accountable, but anyone else who was in the room.

"Any officer that was there that witnessed this and did nothing is complicit in the assault and complicit in the torture," said Mathers. "Any officer that wrote a false police report is guilty of covering up."

Mathers said he plans to make everyone listed as a defendant on the complaint filed in federal court last week pay for what Hooper says they did.

"I want them to know you can't do this, you cant assault a defendant," said Mathers.

The lawsuit lists Sheriff Jim Adkins, Rob Robbins, Troy Siefer, Sandford Beals, Josh Oliveira, Katherine Poland, Melody Sheffield, Bambi Darling, Ron Van Fleet, Shawn Windsor, Tony Lewis and Jefferson County through the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. It also lists Bob Dundas, Rob Hartley, and Crook County through the Crook County Sheriff's Office. Finally it lists Tom Kurtz, Jim O'Daniel through the City of Prineville. The suit demands a jury trial.

We put in calls to Jefferson County, Crook County and the city of Prineville for their reaction. The only call that wasn't returned was from the lawyer for the city of Prineville. The sheriffs in both Jefferson and Crook County said they cannot comment on pending litigation.

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