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Family suing Mount Olive in inmate's beating death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The family of a man who was beaten to death in 2011 by an inmate at Mount Olive Correctional Center has filed a lawsuit against the prison and several corrections officers who allegedly stood by as the fatal assault took place.

The family of Joseph Braddock, who was convicted in 2007 of charges linked to soliciting two 14-year-old boys for sex, filed a lawsuit last week in Kanawha County alleging that corrections officers ignored threats on Braddock's life and failed to react when another inmate pummeled him in the prison yard last year.

Christopher Cox, the inmate who allegedly carried out the deadly assault, has since been indicted on murder charges. His trial has not yet been scheduled, according to Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Carl L. Harris.

At about 10 a.m. on Sept. 24, Cox approached Braddock from behind and started punching him in the face. When Braddock fell to the ground, Cox repeatedly stomped on his face and kicked his head against an adjoining wall in the recreation yard. Braddock was helpless, according to the lawsuit, authored by lawyer Sean W. Cook.

As the attack continued, the Mount Olive corrections officers assigned to the recreation yard that day only gave Cox "loud commands to stop" and did not enter the yard or attempt to physically impede Cox's rampage, the suit states.

Instead, the officers sprayed a small canister of tear gas into the yard, the lawsuit states.

"Obviously, this failed to deter Cox," Cook said in the lawsuit, "and in response, Cox dragged Joseph Braddock further away from the source of the nominal spray and continued his attack."

The officers released another round of tear gas into the yard, but by this time, Braddock was already completely unconscious and Cox had stopped his assault and moved to a small opening where he could be handcuffed. The officers then entered the yard and began escorting other inmates away from the scene, failing to immediately tend to Braddock, according to the lawsuit.

The medical staff who examined Braddock noted that he had a 2.5-centimeter laceration on the back of his head, a baseball-sized hematoma on the right side of his head, severe bruising, blood clots in his nose, and blood spatter on his entire upper body, the lawsuit states.

Medical records indicate that Cox did not receive medical care until he was transferred to a hospital an hour after the assault. He died at about 9 p.m. the following day.

Cox, according to the lawsuit, had a violent history toward other inmates and had repeatedly threatened to kill Braddock. In turn, Braddock told corrections officers of the threats and requested that they impose a type of prison restraining order called a "keep away." Other inmates also warned the officers that Cox was apparently targeting Braddock.

"However, these warnings and requests were obviously ignored," Cook said. "What happened next was both tragically predictable and preventable."

Braddock's family is suing the prison for failing to adequately train its officers to deal with the beating and to secure lifesaving medical treatment for Braddock after the fact.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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