Senior Officer Specialist Tyler Oeltjenbruns took part in the beating and torture of an inmate at the United States Penitentiary (USP) in Victorville California, in July of 2015. Oeltjenbruns' false statements after the incident helped the other officers involved avoid punishment when the incident was investigated by Special Investigative Agent (SIA) Charles Alvarez.
The incident began with the theft of writing utensils by several staff members including Lt. Scott Williams, S.O.S. Saul Luna, Armando Olmos, and Oeltjenbruns. Luna was then elbowed by an inmate for refusing to return the writing utensils. The inmate was then taken to the ground and beaten until a cut opened up on his scalp above the forehead causing profuse bleeding and a permanent scar. The inmate was then taken to the observation room where several officers including Oeltjenbruns held him down, twisted his ankle, and placed bone tight restraints on his limbs. The restraints were so tight that the inmate could barely stand. At one point he was punched in the face by Lt. Williams for not standing due to the pain of the bone tight shackles. Eventually the inmate was forced to walk to medical where PAC Brigitte Wolverton asked guards to loosen the restraints.
Oeltjenbruns made false claims in writing about the incident, so his statements are being uploaded as a pdf with this report. His lies included falsely accusing the inmate of slipping his restraints during the initial beating, denying that a beating took place at all, and denying that Lt. Williams punched the inmate. Video footage of the incident makes it obvious that the inmate was in restraints the entire time, other officers can be seen making punching motions towards the inmate, and that the inmate's foot was being held unnaturally high while Oeltjenbruns was on top of him in the observation room. After leaving the inmate in the observation room in bone tight restraints for over an hour the next shift recorded the inmate's medical exam on a handheld camera. Those guards can be heard refusing to loosen the restraints before forcing him to walk to medical. The inmate was obviously in excruciating pain the entire time.
While in medical PAC Wolverton asked guards to loosen the restraints. Wolverton said in her affidavit, "I do remember the Lieutenant loosening up the restraints because the inmate was complying that they were on too tight." On tape Wolverton can be seen directing the attention of the guards to the inmate's limbs and saying, "can you loosen this? This can't be moved." On the tape the inmate's hands and feet appear to have a darker skin tone than his arms and legs. That is typical when people suffer a loss of circulation. It can also be observed that the restraints were so tight that, like Wolverton said, they could not be moved at all. Applying restraints like that is an all too common punitive measure taken by guards. When confronted they will often say that they did not know how tight they were and deny doing it on purpose. Doing it on purpose constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment.
Oeltjenbruns' conduct is typical example of the culture that exists within the BOP where customs among staff dictate that they stick together and look out for their fellow officers first before considering the rules or the law. In a more honorable organization Oeltjenbruns could have felt comfortable saying the truth. He should have felt comfortable saying that Luna, Olmos, and Williams punched the inmate, that Williams applied bone tight restraints, and that the inmate never slipped his cuffs. Had he done so he would have been ostracized by his fellow officers and he cared more about upholding the COs code than upholding the Constitution, obeying the law, and following the rules. It is people like Oeltjenbruns that empower people like Williams, Luna, and Olmos with the ability to create their own system of punishment when they decide that the rules of the facility are not good enough to maintain discipline. As a result, inmates are deterred by the fear of pain being used as punishment.
Unfortunately, the video is not available online at this time. That is because of a protective order in place as part of lawsuits filed by the inmate against Oeltjenbruns, the other guards, and the United States. During the discovery process the U.S. Attorney's Office asked for the protective order saying that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) considers any images or video footage that shows the inside of a federal prison to be a security risk. The order will be challenged on a later date because it is doubtful that the government can prove the existence of a substantial security risk that outweighs the public interest of exposing this kind of conduct by government employees. The footage is not likely to help anyone escape, which is the cited reason for such images/footage being considered security risks, so once the likelihood of escape is ruled out the argument against the order should be strong.