A view from inside the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead...

A view from inside the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead in 2019. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A former inmate at Suffolk County’s Riverhead jail was assaulted without provocation by correction officers last year and suffers from physical and emotional injuries as a result of that attack, a $69 million lawsuit filed in federal court says.

Wilson Cantarero Lopez, 39, had to undergo emergency surgery to save his life at Peconic Bay Medical Center on March 25, 2022, a day after the beating occurred, according to the complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York. Cantarero Lopez’s large intestine was ripped during the assault, the lawsuit said, and he continues to suffer from stomach pain and other injuries. 

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A former inmate at Suffolk County’s Riverhead jail was assaulted without provocation by correction officers last year and suffers from physical and emotional injuries as a result of that attack, a $69 million lawsuit filed in federal court says.

Wilson Cantarero Lopez, 39, had to undergo emergency surgery to save his life at Peconic Bay Medical Center on March 25, 2022, a day after the beating occurred, according to the complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York. Cantarero Lopez’s large intestine was ripped during the assault, the lawsuit said, and he continues to suffer from stomach pain and other injuries. 

“He’s damaged for life,” said Cantarero Lopez’s lawyer, Hempstead civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington. 

The correction officers violated Cantarero Lopez’s constitutional rights, argues the lawsuit, which said the assault is a recent chapter in a long history of mistreatment of Latinos by Suffolk law enforcement, Brewington said. The suit seeks $49 million for seven causes of action and an additional $20 million in punitive damages. 

“To this day, members of the minority Latino community in Suffolk are not treated fairly or served adequately by the Suffolk County law enforcement,” the lawsuit says. “The Sheriff’s Department has been and are often unresponsive, dismissive of community concerns, hostile or discriminatory, and use unreasonable and excessive force, or fail to properly execute basic duties when serving minority residents.”

The complaint filed Wednesday names Suffolk County, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and 15 unnamed corrections officers as defendants. Representatives for the county and the sheriff’s office declined to comment Thursday, saying they could not discuss pending litigation. The Suffolk County Correction Association, the union that represents correction officers, did not return a request for comment. 

Wilson Cantarero Lopez in an undated photograph. Credit: Cantarero Lopez family

Cantarero Lopez, a native of Honduras who lives in Suffolk, pleaded guilty last year to violating an order of protection and was sentenced to three months in jail, the lawsuit says. Brewington said the order of protection resulted from a nonviolent conflict Cantarero Lopez had with the mother of his child. 

While serving his sentence in the Riverhead jail, Cantarero Lopez got involved in a dispute with the inmate in a neighboring cell, and 15 correction officers came to his cell to transfer him to a new cell on March 24, 2022, the lawsuit said. Six of the officers, dressed in helmets and wielding handheld shields and batons, entered the cell and beat and kicked Cantarero Lopez even though he complied with their orders, according to the lawsuit. 

“This beating was merciless and continued for what seemed like an eternity to plaintiff,” the complaint said. 

Cantarero Lopez was strapped into a restraint chair, even though he did not attempt to harm himself or others, for an hour or 90 minutes. The officers did not provide medical care even though the plaintiff was bleeding from the forehead and mouth, gagging on his blood and struggling to breathe, the court papers say.

Cantarero Lopez was transported in the restraint chair to the infirmary, where officials determined that his injuries were so severe that he had to go to a hospital. He was taken in a sheriff’s car to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where he received six stitches on his forehead. 

Hospital personnel later determined that Cantarero Lopez suffered from internal bleeding and organ damage, according to the complaint. He underwent emergency surgery the following day, where physicians determined that his large intestine had been damaged. 

Cantarero Lopez was hospitalized for 10 days before he was transported to Suffolk’s Yaphank jail, where officials failed to provide him with pain medication, the lawsuit says. He was eventually returned to Riverhead, where he was discharged on May 24. Cantarero Lopez is unable to work due to the injuries he suffered while incarcerated, the court papers say.