A religious discrimination lawsuit has been filed against three prison guards at the Sterling Correctional Facility in Colorado.
Inmates Donell Blount, Cecil Mason, and Terry Phillips are all Muslim and claim that the guards used pepper spray on them during their prayers, Mic reports.
The officers have been named as Ethan Kellogg, David Scherbarth, and Quinlan, who was only identified by last name.
The lawsuit — which seeks compensatory and punitive damages — states that on April 15, 2016, the three inmates went into a multipurpose room for their weekly prayer service but discovered the guards were already using the room.
The inmates were ordered back to their cells, but once they were given the green light to return to the common room for prayers, they were bombarded with pepper spray.
"Plaintiffs felt a searing sensation in their noses, throats, eyes and all over their exposed skin," the lawsuit reportedly states.
Making matters worse, the guards allegedly laughed while the inmates gasped for air. The guards in question have been accused of having “a discriminatory animus towards [the Muslim inmates] because of their religious beliefs.”
According to the Denver Post, Kellogg admitted to using pepper spray on the inmates before they entered the “relatively small room.”
Following the incident, the guards also allegedly retaliated against the inmates upon learning they had filed grievances opposing their conduct.
Scherbarth tried to bully Blount into dropping the lawsuit, telling him that if he didn’t, “life would be hard” and he’d be thrown into a hole and tortured.
Additionally, Quinlan physically assaulted Blount for refusing to drop the suit. He’s been accused of punching Blount in the back multiple times while the inmate was in handcuffs. Blount was allegedly thrown into solitary confinement after the beating and denied medical care.
Sadly — although the case is ongoing — what the guards have been accused of is not hard to believe. The prevalence of police brutality coupled with the rapid spread of Islamophobia in American society have normalized incidents of this nature.
Hopefully, the truth comes to light and these inmates, if they were really mistreated, receive justice.