Former gangster sues over Surrey Pretrial Services Centre attack

Abbotsford's Daniel Cunningham claims guards ignored his screams during a five-hour beating by inmates.

A former gang member is suing the B.C. government, claiming he endured a brutal five-hour beating by fellow inmates, just steps away from a guard desk at Surrey Pretrial Services Centre.

A civil suit filed last week by Abbotsford’s Daniel Cunningham alleges he suffered brain damage and multiple broken bones after other prisoners forced him into a cell and kicked, punched and stomped on him.

“The plaintiff had his head forced into the toilet water several times in an attempt to drown him,” the court document reads. “He was forced to lick his own blood off the shoes of his attackers and clean his blood off the floor and walls using his clothes.”

Cunningham, 35, claims he was knocked out at least three times and sometimes pretended to be dead. He said pretrial centre guards failed to respond to his screams or notice he wasn’t in his cell. He said they also didn’t respond when other inmates were egging on the attack, yelling to “knock his teeth out,” “kick him in the face” and “drown him in the toilet.”

He allegedly screamed repeatedly and banged on the closed cell door.

The claim says the cell where the assault took place was about three metres away from the guard control desk. He alleges he was hidden under bags and clothes when guards did their checks, and they didn’t intervene until his cellmate activated an alarm.

The lawsuit says Cunningham was arrested and remanded to Surrey Pretrial Services Centre in April 2015 on drug trafficking charges. He pleaded guilty on June 11 and was sentenced to six months jail, promising in open court to leave gang life.

Because of an outstanding robbery charge, however, he was returned to the Surrey centre. He says he expressed concern about the return and told pretrial staff that “if it became known that he intended to leave the lifestyle, he would be at risk of violence from members or affiliates of the Red Scorpions.” He was returned nonetheless.

Cunningham accuses the guards of negligence and misfeasance for “knowingly permitted the assault.”

He is seeking damages for his injuries and for violations of his Charter rights. He is now in protective custody.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

B.C. Corrections has yet to file a response.