Family sues county, sheriff over jailhouse beating death

An inactive block at Cook County Jail | CCSO

The family of a man who prosecutors say was beaten to death by a rival gang member in their Cook County Jail cell on Feb. 1 has filed a lawsuit against the county, Sheriff Tom Dart, and the cellmate on Tuesday.

Jail officials knew that housing 19-year-old Pedro Ruiz in the same cell as violent rival gang member Christian Gonzalez presented a “high likelihood” that Ruiz would be attacked, according to the suit filed by attorney Nenye Uche on behalf of Ruiz’s mother.

Uche called Ruiz’s death “an execution based on incompetence.”

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Ruiz was found dead in the locked two-man cell that he shared with Gonzalez less than an hour after the two men were locked into the room together, prosecutors said last week as they filed murder charges against Gonzalez.

Pedro Ruiz | CPD

CWBChicago first reported on Feb. 3 that jail workers placed Ruiz and Gonzalez in the same cell even though they belong to rival gangs that are in the midst of a violent street war. In fact, Gonzalez is in jail for allegedly murdering a top member of Ruiz’s gang.

Gonzalez is also accused of stabbing and beating another inmate in a common area of the jail last November — a point Uche laid out at a press conference on Tuesday.

“An inmate [with] a documented history of vicious attacks against other inmates is left in a cell with another inmate, and not isolated or segregated?” Uche asked.

Ruiz’s death was “easily preventable. Definitely foreseeable,” the lawyer said.

Christian Gonzalez | CCSO

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has refused to answer any questions about the screening processes in place to keep rival gang members from being placed in potentially dangerous situations such as Ruiz’s.

About one year ago, the sheriff’s office announced that it would no longer use its gang database and said it had plans to “terminate” the tool after politicians and activists called for its destruction.

Are arriving inmates asked about their gang affiliations and then assigned accordingly? The sheriff’s office declined to say on when asked by CWBChicago last week.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com