Culture of dishonesty permeates Sacramento prison, Ronnie Price’s Estate claims in lawsuit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The family of a Sacramento prisoner brutalized by a guard who has since pleaded guilty to covering up the death is suing for civil rights violations.

In a complaint filed last week in Sacramento’s federal court, the siblings of Ronnie Price accuse Arturo Pacheco, Ashley Aurich, and warden Jeff Lynch of violating Price’s eighth and fourteenth amendment rights by using excessive force and working to cover the death up afterwards.

Pacheco admitted in July that he swept Price’s legs out from under him after he refused to walk back to his cell in 2016. Price came crashing to the ground, hurting his shoulder in an attempt to break his fall, breaking his jaw, and cracking his teeth.

He was later transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, where he appeared to be making a recovery, but died of a pulmonary embolism while taking a shower.

Aurich and Pacheco conspired to keep each other out of hot water for assaulting Price for no reason, claiming on CDCR crime reports that Price spun to his left and lunged forward, breaking free of Pacheco’s escort before he was taken down in a “controlled manner.”

“In truth, Defendant Pacheco swept Mr. Price’s legs out from underneath him, causing him to smash his head against the concrete,” the complaint reads.

The partners also omitted the presence of another CO in an effort to keep him from submitting an accurate report on the incident. The guard drafted a report that mentioned excessive force by Pacheco but was dissuaded from sending it in by the officers. That guard is also named in the lawsuit as a “Doe” defendant.

Pacheco could face up to 60 years behind bars, with Aurich facing a maximum sentence of two decades. No other officer was criminally charged in relation to Price’s death and its cover-up.

According to Price’s family, they were unaware of the facts surrounding their brother’s death until news outlets, including The Update, began to report on Pacheco’s guilty plea in July. The Update was the first to report on Pacheco striking a deal in the case after his lawyer quietly signaled that he would do so in a court filing.

Also mentioned in the lawsuit is an allegation of a culture of dishonesty and misconduct by staff at Sacramento’s prison – a claim that, if found to be true, could result in serious scrutiny of prison operations, including possible court oversight and consequences for Warden Lynch.

“CSP Sac has a history of tolerating misconduct amongst correctional officers,” a portion of the lawsuit reads. “Plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege those complaints documented dishonest conduct such as the planting of drugs and other evidence, assaults on inmates and falsifying evidence and reports among other issues.”

Price’s family has asked the court for a jury trial, and seek punitive and compensatory damages from Aurich, Pacheco, Lynch and others, as well as attorney’s fees and the cost to file the suit.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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