‘Let Me Guess You Can’t Breathe?’: New Mexico Prison Guard Allegedly Referenced George Floyd After Officers Unleashed Savage Beating on Black Man In Cell

A Black man who was terrorized by prison guards as an inmate at the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton during a shakedown has filed a lawsuit against several guards.

Carl Berry was an inmate at the facility on April 15, 2021, when prison guards announced a shakedown. After Berry called out for another inmate, Demetrius Wright, to remain calm because he feared the guards were “goading” him into reacting so they could justify using force against him, he says the guards targeted him.

Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton Carl Berry
Prison guards at the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton are accused of assaulting Carl Berry. (Photo: KOB4 News screenshot / YouTube

The lawsuit claims that one of the guards, Christian Trujillo, yelled, “Shut the f—k up, this ain’t Santa Rosa. I’m gonna show you how we do it in Clayton.” After beating another inmate named Steve Watkins, Trujillo said, “You mother f—kers are gonna learn this is my house.”

The guards — listed in the lawsuit as Christian Trujillo, Emanuele Bobbio, Danny Pelayo, Ashley Lawrence and Bernardo Villegas — then went into Berry’s cell with Captain Heather Jaramillo around 8:45 a.m. and surrounded him while yelling that he was a “punk,” a “p—sy” and threatening to “f—k him up.” The lawsuit also claims that one of the guards sexually assaulted Berry.

“Defendant Pelayo stood behind Mr. Berry, put his crotch up against Mr. Berry’s backside, and pushed his crotch into Mr. Berry’s butt. Mr. Berry told Defendant Pelayo to stop,” read the lawsuit. “Defendants laughed at Mr. Berry and Defendant Pelayo continued. Mr. Berry told Defendants he would file charges under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”). Defendant Trujillo told Mr. Berry he was a ‘PREA p—sy.'”

Pelayo then lifted Berry up and slammed him into the ground, and all the guards began punching and kicking him.

“Mr. Berry heard Defendant Trujillo instruct Defendant Pelayo, ‘He tried to hit you, okay?'”

Lawrence sprayed Berry multiple times in the face with pepper spray as he was held down and Bobbio pressed his foot into Berry’s back.

“Defendant Bobbio taunted Mr. Berry, ‘Let me guess, you can’t breathe.’ Mr. Berry struggled to respond, ‘No, I can’t breathe,’” the lawsuit says.

The beating went on for approximately eight minutes, and the lawsuit contends that Bobbio threatened Berry’s life by referencing the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

“By saying ‘let me guess you can’t breathe,’ Defendant Bobbio was making a direct and deliberate reference to Mr. Floyd’s murder, Derek Chauvin’s actions and his ongoing criminal trial, and Defendants’ own disregard for Mr. Berry’s life.”

After removing the 45-year-old Berry from his cell, the guard allegedly rammed his head into a heavy metal door. All of the activity took place outside the view of the prison’s cameras, and Berry was taken to solitary confinement after the beating where he remained for one week. He was stripped naked and given a cavity search.

“Defendants ridiculed Mr. Berry, telling him they bet he wished he had kept his mouth shut now.”

His attorney, Mallory Gagan, said during a news conference on April 11 that Berry is seeking actual and compensatory damages.

“During an eight-minute, unrecorded encounter in his closed cell the defendants sexually abused and humiliated Carl,” Gagan said. “They assaulted him, and they sprayed him repeatedly in the face with pepper spray while they were forcibly holding him down on the ground.”

Steven Allen, the director of the New Mexico Prison & Jail Project in Albuquerque, added that the prison guards referenced George Floyd’s murder to terrorize Berry.

“The officers must have been watching Derek Chauvin’s trial, or they knew about it,” said Allen. “That kind of terrorizing of a Black prisoner here in New Mexico is completely unacceptable, and that’s why we’re filing this lawsuit.”

Trujillo, Pelayo, Bobbio and Jaramillo each claimed in separate interviews that they did not record what happened inside Berry’s cell despite it being a policy requirement. An incident report was filed with the Department’s Office of Professional Standards noted “misconduct,” but it was heavily redacted. No criminal charges were filed.

Watkins has also filed a lawsuit against the guards and is represented by the New Mexico Prison & Jail Project.

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