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Prison Murder Was Predictable, Family Says

LAS VEGAS (CN) - Nevada prison officials put a Native American-Latino inmate in the same cell as a white supremacist, who stabbed him to death, the late man's family claims in Clark County Court.

Anthony Beltran, 33, died of chest wounds inflicted by his cellmate, Douglas Potter, on Dec. 28, 2006, according to the Oct. 30 lawsuit from his three minor children and their guardian.

Beltran's family claims that prison officials improperly classified Beltran as a "white supremacist" himself, despite his racial heritage. Potter killed him eight days after he was placed in the cell; he had demanded a single-prisoner cell and said he would main or kill anyone placed as his cellmate, according to the complaint.

Around 8:10 a.m. that day, a prison guard handcuffed Beltran to the cell door and waited outside while Potter stabbed Beltran several times with a shiv, his family says in the lawsuit. Beltran was pronounced dead at 8:48 a.m.

He was serving time for sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary and use of a deadly weapon, according to The Associated Press.

The guardian of Beltran's children, Helen Jane Romero, claims that at least 9 months before he was murdered, Beltran disputed his white supremacist classification and asked to be reclassified, but could not due to the prison's lack of reclassification forms. He immediately requested reassignment after being housed with Potter on Dec. 20, 2006, according to the lawsuit.

Despite opposing his false classification and subsequent housing assignment, Romero says, Beltran could not refuse to enter the same cell as Potter without losing privileges, including "the extreme sanction of loss of all contact with his mother and three minor children for an entire year."

She claims prison officials ignored Potter's threats to "maim or murder" anyone placed in his cell.

Romero says that Potter "had a history of committing violent assaults" on inmates and was a known member of the Aryan Warriors white supremacist group.

She claims that several corrections officers were responsible for Beltran's safety at the time of the attack but subjected him to an "unacceptable risk of violent assault" and after the stabbing "delayed obtaining medical treatment."

Although Potter committed the murder, Romero says, the Nevada Department of Corrections and Ely State Prison officials and staff "made it possible" through the "breach of their duties of care and their defective policies concerning handcuffing a double-celled inmate inside a locked cell with a highly violent inmate."

Romero claims that Potter's membership in the Aryan Warriors, a prison gang known to bribe, befriend or intimidate guards so that they can smuggle and sell drugs and extort other inmates, enabled him to commit violent acts. Some guards actively help the gang while others are "willfully" negligent when dealing with them to avoid being targeted for violence, she says.

She seeks punitive damages for the children, for wrongful death and negligent hiring, training and retention.

Named as defendants are the Nevada Department of Corrections and its director Glenn Whorton, Ely State Prison warden E.K. McDaniel and corrections officers Trent Howes, Michael Jason Stolk, Theresa Landon and Robert Otero. Also named are caseworkers Mark Drain, Robert Chambliss, Kay Weiss and Michael Oxborrow and associate wardens Adam Endel and Lt. Tony Jones.

The Beltran children are represented by Cal J. Potter III.

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