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Grass Valley man sues Nevada County, Sheriff’s Office, over leg broken at jail

Christopher Howie said he’d complied with the Nevada County Jail officer moments before his head was pushed into a wall.

Howie, who’s filed suit in federal court over the incident, said his face bounced off the wall. He objected, only to have the same officer again push him.

Moments later the officer grabbed his handcuffed hands, pulled up and forced him to the floor, Howie said.

“This all happened in a few seconds,” Howie states in an exhibit to his lawsuit. “As I went down, I felt my right leg breaking.”

Howie didn’t reach the hospital for a day. Only after he was put in a wheelchair and pushed to the street curb could he call a taxi. The cab driver couldn’t get Howie into his car and called an ambulance, the lawsuit states.

Howie, of Grass Valley, last week sued Nevada County, the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Keith Royal, Grass Valley police, the city of Grass Valley and Correctional Medical Group, along with several officers and medical staff. He’s asked for $1.5 million in damages.

“Mr. Howie is currently suffering a disability,” said Penn Valley attorney Patrick Dwyer, who represents Howie. “His bone, his leg, may never heal.”

Deputy County Counsel Jamie Hogenson said in an email that her office hasn’t been served Howie’s suit. Responding for both Nevada County and the Sheriff’s Office, Hogenson declined comment.

Correctional Medical Group couldn’t be reached for comment.

Dwyer said he’s spoken to county officials about starting the mediation process. He hopes that can begin by mid-January.

Howie’s attorney emphasized the lawsuit isn’t an attack on law enforcement. Instead he wants it to instigate change.

“I’m not out to excoriate,” Dwyer added.

The lawsuit

A Grass Valley officer saw Howie around 4:30 p.m. Jan. 11 standing on Highway 20, near the Mill Street off-ramp. Howie was drinking a beer when the officer approached, and he found the 41-year-old man was intoxicated and couldn’t care for himself. That led to Howie’s arrest, a police record states.

Howie entered the jail’s booking area around 5:10 p.m. Moments later a deputy had pushed Howie’s face into a wall, forced him to the floor and broke his right leg, the lawsuit states.

Deputies ignored Howie’s cries. No medical staff arrived to help. Instead he was taken to a bench before being moved to a holding cell and “dumped” on his knees with his ankle and wrist chains still attached, the suit alleges.

Almost two hours later medical staff noted that Howie was awake, alert and had a steady gait. About eight hours after his injury staff said he appeared well, but that his gait was unstable. Howie told medical staff about his leg, but was ignored, the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, around 9 or 10 a.m. Jan. 12 Howie was helped from his cell, put in a wheelchair and taken to the booking area. His pleas for a ride to the hospital were ignored, and around 1 p.m. he was wheeled to a street curb. Howie then called a cab.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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