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Family of Strangled Inmate Seeks $35 Million From L.A. County

June 24, 2004|David Rosenzweig | Times Staff Writer

The family of a Los Angeles County Jail inmate, who was strangled in his cell while waiting to testify as a key witness in a murder trial, filed a $35-million federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Sheriff's Department.

Raul Tinajero, 20, a convicted car thief, was found dead on his cot in the downtown Los Angeles jail on April 20, five weeks after a judge ordered that he be kept in protective custody.

Because of apparent security lapses, the suspect against whom Tinajero was to testify came into the young man's cell and strangled him, authorities said.

The federal lawsuit accuses Sheriff Lee Baca and the department of violating Tinajero's civil rights, failing to properly supervise the jailhouse staff, negligence and other acts of official misconduct. The suit seeks $30 million in damages on behalf of Tinajero and his estate, and $5 million for his mother, Silvia.

The Sheriff's Department had no immediate comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

Tinajero is one of five inmates who have been killed since October in the overcrowded county jail, which houses about 7,000 inmates.

Inmate Santiago Pineda, 23, of Long Beach, has been charged with Tinajero's killing.

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