Inmate incident investigated

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A Curry County jail official said two inmates received medical treatment following an incident Monday that involved detention officers.

Detention Center Chief Deputy Warden Audrey Barriga said the incident is being investigated by the Curry County Sheriff’s office.

Barriga said there was a “situation” on Monday morning that involved uncooperative inmates, and it went on throughout the day.

“It was just crazy and it was consistent,” she said. “A lot of the inmates were involved with refusing to comply, and we were trying to keep it from escalating.”

The mother of inmate Benito Valdez said her son received head injuries at the hands of a detention officer Monday afternoon.

Barriga said as of Tuesday no detention officers had been disciplined by jail administrators in connection with the incident.

Terisita Valdez said her son told her a guard sprayed him with mace and opened doors by slamming his head into them. He was complaining his ear was split open and his head was throbbing, she said.

Barriga confirmed Benito Valdez had been placed in isolation and said he was in good condition. Barriga declined comment on the complaint, citing the ongoing investigation. She confirmed Benito Valdez and one other inmate received medical care Monday but added, “We don’t attack inmates. We continually try to de-escalate situations.”

Barriga said surveillance video had been turned over to sheriff’s deputies Tuesday.

Calls to the sheriff’s department seeking comment were not returned Tuesday.

Benito Valdez is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to intentional child abuse resulting in the death of his 4-month-old son. He was transferred from the juvenile detention center in February when he became an adult, his mother said.