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A Nebraska U.S. District judge this month ruled he would allow a state inmate's lawsuit to move forward regarding injuries he received at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution where he was assaulted by three other prisoners. 

Darryl Chambers, 45, is suing Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes and 10 employees at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Lincoln Correctional Center and Tecumseh State Correctional Institution after he said he repeatedly warned managers, wardens and administrators he was at risk of assault if not protected at the Nebraska prisons. 

Chambers is serving 16 to 30 years for first-degree assault as a habitual criminal. His sentence began in March 2017. 

From the time he entered prison at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center, Chambers warned prison authorities he "had problems" with two specific inmates, one of them who is on death row for murder. The other was in prison for two counts of first-degree murder. 

In 2008, when Chambers was in jail on federal drug charges, he testified in the death row inmate's trial to statements he said the inmate made to him. 

When he entered prison in 2016, Chambers said he told an intake officer of his risk of assault and the officer put the information into a computer, onto a "keep separate" list. The two inmates he said he needed to be separated from were at Tecumseh and the penitentiary. 

After eight months he was moved to the penitentiary, and again told a case manager of his need for protection. He then moved to Lincoln Correctional Center, where he spent two months in protective custody and eight months in the general population.

Chambers was then moved back to the penitentiary after, he said, another manager at Lincoln Correctional Center told him she could do nothing about his fear of being at risk. In the next 18 months he was moved several times more, including to Tecumseh in late June 2018.

There, he requested protective custody and was assigned to a special management unit. He twice sent an interview request to Warden Brad Hansen saying he didn't feel safe and he just wanted to do his time without problems. Hansen replied there was no reason he couldn't be in the general population at Tecumseh because one inmate he was afraid of was on death row and the other was in long-term restricted housing. 

On July 5, 2018, Chambers alerted a unit administrator that his life was in "grave danger" being in the same prison with the two inmates. "I have people on this gallery say word is out I am here and people are waiting for me on the yard, and (protective custody)," he told her. But she told him he had no monitoring concerns at Tecumseh and that he was recommended for general population. 

He alerted another manager of his concerns on July 7, and on July 8 he requested that the warden keep him "in the hole," where he felt safe, and not in a protective custody yard. On July 12, he was ordered to move to another housing unit and he refused. On July 17, Hansen told him that if he had specific issues with specific inmates to notify his unit staff. 

Two days later he was again told to move, but refused. The next day he complied. 

Within five minutes of his arrival at the new unit, he was assaulted by three inmates, all hitting him with their fists. It took pepper spray and multiple staff to control the assault, according to a department disciplinary misconduct reporting form. 

Around the same time, Chambers also had a long list of his property stolen -- more than $900 worth, according to the complaint. He was returned to the special management unit at Tecumseh, where he sought medical treatment for back and neck pain and headaches. 

He sent a request to department Chief of Operations Diane Sabatka-Rine for a transfer from Tecumseh. With assistance from ombudsman Anthony Kay, he was transferred to the Lincoln Correctional Center on July 27, 2018. 

Sabatka-Rine sent a letter on Aug. 10, 2018, telling Chambers there was no information available to indicate that the men who assaulted him were connected to either inmate, or other groups he identified, so "it was unforeseeable that members of this particular security threat group would assault you."

Chambers filed a grievance once he returned to Lincoln Correctional Center and the department responded that it takes assaults and threats seriously and takes "great steps" to prevent them. "... unfortunately we are not able to stop them all." He was told to contact the Nebraska State Patrol if he wished to pursue charges. 

He appealed and was told his custody level in June 2018 was appropriate for transfer to Tecumseh, and that neither inmate on his list was in general population at that time. 

In his complaint, filed in May, Chambers said the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution requires prison officials take reasonable measures to guarantee inmate safety by protecting them from attacks by other inmates. Prison officials violate that amendment if they exhibit a deliberate or callous indifference to an inmate's safety. 

Chambers was assigned an attorney to represent him in the case on July 23. 

Last month, a Tecumseh inmate who had been injured in an assault there died 11 days later at a Lincoln hospital from his injuries. The death of Anthony Davis, 40, is being investigated by the Nebraska State Patrol, and a grand jury will be conducted. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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