Suit: Prison guards failed to protect handcuffed black inmates from white inmate with knife

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-18 16:13:49-04

On April 3, 2019, two black inmates filed a federal lawsuit against the warden, several guards and members of the medical staff at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

The complainants are two of four black inmates who were stabbed by a white inmate while handcuffed to a table. Surveillance cameras recorded the attack.

The lawsuit claims the prison staff "knowingly and intentionally" allowed it to happen because of their race.

One of those victims is a Westwood native. He might be the reason the group survived.

This is his story.

On a quiet street in the southern corner of Westwood, there's a two-story home where one voice echoes louder than everything else.

“I love you, daddy!” 3-year-old Leah says as she rushes down the stairs.

Her father, Dontez Hollis, has been a free man for just over a year. He says his time with his daughter is part of his "second chance at life" — one he almost didn't get.

A 2017 drug trafficking conviction sent Hollis to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, where he says inmates had the option of coming out of their cells for one hour of “Table Time" in a common area each day. They had to pass a close security inspection first, he adds.

“We are handcuffed, turned around and thoroughly searched,” he says. “You can’t sneak a deck of cards out, so I don’t see how he got out with that big of a knife.”

On June 4, 2017, Hollis and three other black inmates were cuffed and searched for Table Time.

Prison surveillance video obtained by WCPO shows the group — Hollis, Shamieke Pugh, Darryl Pascol and Maurice Lee — playing cards for 27 minutes while cuffed to a table, seemingly unaware of the white inmate at the next table over. His name is Greg Reinke, and the suit alleges he is a known white supremacist.

He then escapes his cuffs and pulls an 8-inch blade out of his clothes. The recording shows Reinkie violently and repeatedly stabbing the still-handcuffed inmates at Hollis' table as they scramble back and forth attempting to avoid the blows. Pugh and Lee are visibly bleeding.

The lawsuit claims the prison guards either knew or should have known Reinke had a key or a similar device to unlock his cuffs. It also says he did not receive the same search as the victims did before entering the recreation room.

The recording shows no guards inside the locked gates at the time of the attack.

“They didn’t come in quick enough," Hollis says. "They were standing at the gates watching the whole thing."

According to the lawsuit, “the Defendant Officers laughed as Mr. Pugh, Mr. Lee, and the other inmates were stabbed by Reinke.”

The attack carries on for nearly one minute before Hollis, too, gets loose.

“It was no skin on my hands from ripping out of the hand cuffs, they were so tight,” Hollis says. “By the time I actually did get out of them, all the skin was just gone off my hands.”

Hollis is then seen tackling Reinke. Only then do guards intervene.

The lawsuit claims that even with guards present, they didn't rush to give medical aid for the wounded. It says guards waited up to “15 minutes” to treat the victims while they were sitting there, bleeding.

“That’s just how that prison is ran,” Hollis says. "Pretty much if you’re black you’re going to have a hard time there."

Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman says he’d like to think the officers did their job that day.

“I know there’s a delay on various doors that can happen, to open up and get there,” Tieman says. “The timing of it concerned me when I saw it, it seemed like an eternity watching it.”

Tieman says his focus was on Reinke in the local criminal trial. A judge gave Reinke a 54-year sentence at the end of March for the attack on the other inmates. He was charged with and convicted of aggravated murder and felonious assault. He was already serving a life sentence for murder in a 2004 case out of Cuyahoga County.

“Banishing (Reinke) to the moon would be my preference,” Tieman says. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Tieman says he looked into whether race played a factor in this case but couldn’t find enough evidence to charge Reinke with a hate crime.

"Obviously, it’s racism, 'cause there's four black men chained to a table and a white guy who somehow slips his cuffs and stabs all four… but I can’t jump to that conclusion as a prosecutor.”

Nevertheless, Hollis says although it was Reinke who committed the crime, guards allowed it to happen.

“I feel someone put him up to that and (want) for them to get to the bottom of that and for them to be held accountable,” Hollis says.

The attorney on the federal lawsuit, Solomon Radner, says although only Pugh and Lee are currently listed as victims on the suit, he has been retained by all four inmates who were attacked. He says Hollis will be added to the lawsuit soon.

The lawsuit lists eleven counts of civil rights violations. They include multiple infractions of the eighth and 14th amendments, such as failure to protect, conspiracy to deprive rights and an equal protection transgression based on discrimination of race.

Radner says the complainants want a jury to decide a financial settlement.

In the meantime, Hollis says he’s working to start his life over by taking classes at Dohn Community High School.

“I have little daughter that I have to watch grow up,” he says. “I need to be a better man for her, 'cause it’s not about me anymore.”

He hopes to one day attend the University of Cincinnati and leave the memory of blood-stained prison floors behind.

"Whether we're prisoners, whether we're free, no matter the situation, that was wrong," he says. “You guys have second chances, life could've been snatched from you like that over nothing."

Additional note: Reinke was also charged and convicted in a second case for stabbing correctional officer, Matthew Mathias, 32 times. The incident happened Feb. 20, 2018 and led to Reinke being handed an additional 32 years behind bars.

Mathias survived the attack. WCPO has reached out to the prison for an update on his condition.