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Mentally Ill Colorado Prisoner Who Gouged Out His Eyes Sues Sheriff

by Ed Lyon

On December 7, 2017, Ryan Partridge, a mentally ill prisoner, sued the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and other county employees, claiming they failed to provide him with adequate mental health care and abused him. The 31-year-old, who suffers from psychosis, eventually gouged out his own eyes; in response, he said jail staff beat him into submission. That incident represented a culmination of the jail’s failure to protect Partridge from himself.

Partridge is a Boulder, Colorado native. Extremely intelligent, he left high school early, earned a G.E.D. and began taking college classes. However, in 2014, his parents noticed that he was exhibiting signs of mental illness. He told his mother he was “losing it.” His parents had him committed for a 72-hour observation once when he became paranoid, verging on psychotic. They called police several times when his psychoses grew increasingly violent and he soon became a well-known prisoner at the county jail, circulating in and out on charges of loitering, trespassing and mischief.

Jailed for a misdemeanor probation violation in February 2016, jail staff documented a marked deterioration in Partridge’s mental state. He said he wanted to remove his eyes and struck his head on a steel toilet, breaking seven teeth. His mental health condition warranted a recommendation for single-celling.

In early March 2016, he was placed in a Special Management and Maximum Module at the jail. There, he was beaten and tased by jailers in two incidents: once during a food tray dispute and again while being moved to a “more severe and secure disciplinary cell.” Afterward, he told a health care provider he was considering suicide and informed guards that the “C.I.A. was telling him to ‘dig out his eyes.’” At that point, a judge ordered Partridge to be transferred to a mental health facility. County officials ignored the order and he remained at the jail.

On March 22, guards beat and used a Taser on Partridge during a routine cell cleanup. He later tried to gouge out his eyes; in response, guards placed him in a restraint chair and tased him. On March 28, 2016, seeing the danger that Partridge posed to himself, a court ordered his commitment to a hospital for 72 hours, during which time he again tried to remove his eyes. Released early and returned to the jail on March 29, he was restrained for self-induced vomiting. Partridge was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bonded out of jail on June 7.

Jailed again in September 2016, Partridge’s mental illness was again documented. A judge twice ordered psychological evaluations. Then, in November, Partridge jumped head-first from the second tier of the jail onto a steel table, injuring his head and back. After a second suicide attempt using the same method, a guard reportedly dubbed him “Parachute Partridge.”

Guards allegedly beat and tased him for refusing an attorney visit on December 2, 2016, and a judge ordered his immediate hospitalization on December 16. The next day, before Partridge was transferred to a hospital, he used his fingers to gouge out both of his eyes, leaving him blind.

“I hope that things will change, not just for people with mental disorders, but for the people in disciplinary,” Partridge told The Guardian in a phone interview. “Getting tased and beaten, all that is stressful. What can be worse than that is the delusion that arises in isolation.”

“I’ll never forget the feeling of literally knowing my son is being abused and tortured and I can’t do anything to stop it,” Partridge’s father added.

His lawsuit remains pending; he is represented by the Denver law firms of Killmer Lane & Newman, LLP and Haddon Morgan & Foreman, P.C. See: Partridge v. Pelle, U.S.D.C. (D. Col.), Case No. 1:17-cv-02941-CMA-STV. 


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Related legal case

Partridge v. Pelle