Video: Third wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Washoe County Sheriff’s Office


The family of a Reno man who died after being bound in a hogtied position and fighting against police have filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by the father of Thomas Purdy who died in October 2015, is the third wrongful death claim against the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office since in-custody deaths at the jail began to spike two years ago.

Also named in the lawsuit are the Reno Police Department and the Peppermill Resort Hotel, who were involved in Purdy’s arrest.

Purdy stopped breathing in a cell at the Washoe County jail after a violent struggle first with Peppermill security guards and then with Reno police officers who arrested him on trespassing charges. Purdy continued to struggle against Washoe County sheriff’s deputies who tried to remove his restraints once he arrived at the jail.

An autopsy ruled Purdy’s death a homicide, finding he died of excited delirium while being restrained. An investigation by Sparks police found no criminal wrongdoing.

The lawsuit contends police officers and deputies used excessive force when restraining Purdy and showed deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Purdy repeatedly complained he couldn’t breathe with his hands tied behind his back and secured with an extendable strap to his ankles.

Andre Lagomarsino, who represents Thomas Purdy, Sr., also argued that neither police agency adequately trained their officers to recognize and prevent excited delirium deaths.

The lawsuit also contends that Peppermill security guards used excessive force while trying to remove Purdy from the property, including allowing his head to smack the ground while dragging him down a set of concrete steps. Lagomarsino argued security guards also lacked proper training.

The police investigation into Purdy’s death included a recording of one of the Peppermill security guards bragging to a co-worker that “(Purdy’s) at the top of the stairs, I pulled his ass down the steps.”

Peppermill spokeswoman Katie Silva said the resort has no comment on the lawsuit.

Purdy, who was a regular gambler at the Peppermill and had been comped a room at the resort, was asked to leave the property after he began acting erratically in the casino. The autopsy found Purdy was high on methamphetamine during the incident.

Purdy continued to act strangely and kept returning to the hotel, prompting security guards to call Reno police. Officers bound Purdy in a “RIPP restraint,” a special strap that binds a suspect’s feet and connects his handcuffed hands to his ankles.

Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said he can’t comment on the lawsuit itself. But he said Reno police officers are trained never to hog-tie a suspect. But they do use RIPP restraints.

The difference, Soto said, is the slack in the strap that allows the suspect to sit in a normal position and move his legs away from his body. In a traditional hogtie, a suspect’s back is bowed because his arms are bound tightly to his ankles.

When deputies attempted to remove the RIPP restraint strap at the jail, however, they placed Purdy on his stomach and forced his feet up to his hips so they could remove the strap. That’s when he stopped breathing, according to video of the incident at the jail.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Lipparelli said he could not comment on the lawsuit until his office has reviewed it.

While the lawsuit asks for an unspecified dollar amount for compensatory and punitive damages, Purdy’s sister said her family doesn’t care about the money.

“Money isn’t going to give me my brother back,” Annemarie Grant said. “I want criminal charges pressed and Washoe County to make some serious positive changes so no family has to go through this. The citizens of the county should be concerned about what’s happening with the law enforcement agencies in the county. It’s frightening and wrong.”

The Purdy lawsuit is the third wrongful death claim against the sheriff’s office. The county recently settled a similar lawsuit, paying the family of Niko Smith $75,000. A second lawsuit, involving the police restraint death of Justin Thompson, is pending in federal court.