He walked into jail; Manchester resident carried out on stretcher
By MARK HAYWARD New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER - Fernando Ornelas - the Manchester resident who became paralyzed last October at the Valley Street Jail - calmly walked into the jail on his own power, but was removed on a stretcher with his head slumped, video from jail cameras shows.
The video was obtained during a state investigation into what happened to Ornelas, who was 54 when he entered Elliot Hospital for psychiatric observation following a minor car accident on Oct. 16. At the hospital, Ornelas fought with security guards; then at the jail, corrections officers forcibly brought him to the floor of his cell.
He left the jail on Oct. 17 with a broken neck.A five-minute compilation of video from jail cameras is available at UnionLeader.com.
In April, New Hampshire Attorney General Joe Foster said hospital security guards and corrections officers used a reasonable amount of force to restrain Ornelas, and his injuries did not constitute a crime.
Shortly after the announcement, the New Hampshire Union Leader sought access to the investigative file through a Right to Know request.
The investigation - conducted by New Hampshire State Police Sgt. Fred Lulka and Manchester police Sgt. Ryan Grant - comprised hundreds of pages of reports, hours of video footage from the jail and Manchester Police Department, and tape-recorded interviews.
Hillsborough County Corrections Superintendent David Dionne said everything was done properly at his facility."A situation happened, and he was removed with an injury," Dionne said last week. "I don't know where (it happened), but I feel for the family." He said Ornelas' lawyer has already put the county on notice that he plans to file a legal action.
Ornelas' lawyer said he has also filed a request for the investigative file, and he anticipates filing legal claims about 30 days after he receives the information.
"I'm ready to go right now. I just want to corroborate what I believe happened," said Boston lawyer David P. Angueira. "Everyone's on notice who was involved with Mr. Ornelas that day and knows what happened to him."
Ornelas ended up at Valley Street Jail after he got into a fight with security guards at the Elliot Hospital psychiatric evaluation program unit.
The investigation found that Ornelas became uncooperative once jailed at Valley Street. He banged his head repeatedly on the door of his jail cell, urinated in the cell and clogged the toilet so it overflowed.
Three corrections officers entered his cell, brought him to the floor, dragged him to the showers and eventually strapped him to a restraining chair.
In the chair, Ornelas' condition deteriorated, and an ambulance crew eventually returned him to the hospital.
Ornelas' lawyer said his client remains in a wheelchair at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, where he is distressed and upset.
"All he was doing," Angueira said, "was looking for help."