Lawsuit: Escaping inmate falls through air ducts and lands on another, causing head injury

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A former inmate is suing a Colorado private prison after he suffered a closed head injury during another inmate’s escape attempt through the detention center’s ceiling HVAC system.

“I don’t recall if I heard anything…I just remember I felt a blow. It was a painful blow,” said Shawn Allen of the January 2018 incident at the Cheyenne Mountain Reentry Center in Colorado Springs.

Allen said he was knocked out during the ordeal, but a roommate told him one of two escaping inmates had fallen on top of him. “It was the weight of the man’s leg and foot – part of his body – landing with the metal on top of my head, slamming my face down to the hardwood table, which caused a skull fracture,” Allen said.

In a federal lawsuit filed against the facility, Allen’s attorney, Todd Bovo, alleges the nurses and other staff at the facility were negligent and indifferent to Allen’s medical needs by failing to provide proper attention to his injuries.

“Mr. Allen’s serious medical injuries went undiagnosed; finally, an x-ray was taken approximately twenty days after the incident,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Allen suffered excruciating pain and was finally seen by an outside medical specialist approximately (45) forty-five days later who diagnosed him with traumatic iritis and ordered a CT scan of the brain. Another month passed without receiving the care he needed and finally, the CT scan was taken which revealed an undisputed orbital eye fracture from the incident,” the federal complaint stated.

Allen’s medical records confirm he suffered a fracture near his eye.

“I feel like I’m in a dream state,” Allen said. “I feel like I’m in a daze, a fog.”

“We want to respect the dignity of all our people – even those who are incarcerated – and that didn’t happen here,” said Bovo, who is pushing for compensation for his client’s suffering. “He deserves the right to pursue happiness and the right to be free of pain, and when they make medical decisions for him because he’s in custody and those medical decisions are inappropriate, that needs to stop.”

The facility is slated to close in March, but the Geo Group, which runs the detention center, said it was reviewing the lawsuit.

“We have received and are reviewing the suit brought by the plaintiff (Mr. Allen) relating to alleged injuries resulting from a ceiling collapse that occurred when two inmates were attempting to escape the CMRC facility through the HVAC system on January 21, 2018,” said Brian Miller, a spokesperson for the Geo Group.

Miller said he could not comment further about the medical care due to the pending litigation.

Allen said he still suffers from pain and difficulty with his eyes. He regularly attends a music therapy class for victims of head injuries at the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado.

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