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Former Richland Co. corrections officer pleading not guilty to charges related to inmate's 2019 death

'It’s the beginning of some type of closure:' Family calls arraignment a step in the right direction
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Posted at 5:46 PM, Dec 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-28 18:52:08-05

MANSFIELD, Ohio — The family of a man who died in custody at the Richland County Jail say they’re one step closer to answers. Wednesday, a former corrections officer was arraigned on charges related to the death.

“It’s been a long three years. We didn’t know if it would ever come to this,” said Toni Mould, the mother of Alex Rios.

Earlier this month, former Richland County Sheriff’s deputy Mark Cooper was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of reckless homicide.

RELATED: Former corrections officer charged for causing death of Richland County Jail inmate in 2019

During a Wednesday arraignment in Richland County court, Cooper entered a not guilty plea on all charges.

“He should be held accountable for what happened,” said Lisa Rios, the stepmother of Alex Rios.

Rios was booked into the Richland Co. Jail during the early morning hours of Sept. 19, 2019, on an outstanding drug-related warrant. He was on life-support less than 24 hours later.

Shortly before midnight, a supervisor began recording with a handheld camera when Rios refused to get down from a concrete divider in his cell. In the video, a sergeant is heard telling him he’s going to open the cell door and put Rios in a restraint chair.

Fifty-three seconds into the recording, officers open the cell door and Rios darts out of the cell. Moments later, five corrections officers pile onto the 28-year-old.

A female corrections officer is heard calling for the officers to use their tasers. Rios is tased twice and punched in the head.

“I’m not even fighting,” Rios says in the video.

About 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the recording, another officer, who has his right foot on Rios’ shoulder, lifts his right foot, putting his entire body weight on Rios’ back for seven seconds.

At some point after 2 minutes into the video, Rios becomes unconscious. The father of two never regained consciousness.

“There’s a video that reflects the incident. You can watch it all day long. It would be different if it was some other way of death,” said Don Mould, Rios’ stepfather.

His father, Marvin Rios, added, “They can’t say they didn’t see it. It’s on the video. Videos don’t lie.”

The family tells News 5 they hope a jury finds the evidence laid out in the video and holds Cooper accountable for what they say is his role in Rios’ death.

The former corrections officer no longer works for the Richland Co. Sheriff’s Office. At Wednesday’s arraignment, the magistrate ordered a $25,000 bond, despite agreement from both sides on a non-cash recognizance bond.

Special prosecutor Forrest Thompson was brought in for the case from Medina County. He explained that combing through the facts, video and records was a lengthy, arduous process.

“We have a cause of death that is questionable. We have records that don’t appear to tell the full story. And we have a mixed report that’s needed sorting out by experts,” Thompson said.

He declined to say whether other corrections officers involved in the September 2019 incident could also face charges.

Meanwhile, Rios’ family told News 5 Cooper’s arraignment is a step in the right direction and a small measure of relief.

“I’ve been having a rough time once in a while. But now that this is getting moving, I’m more at ease,” said Marvin Rios.

Toni Mould added, “We’re just happy at least it’s the beginning of some type of closure for us. Three years is a long time to not know, not know if anything’s going to be done.”

Rios’ family previously sued Richland County in federal court. They reached a $4 million settlement in the civil case.

RELATED: A Fatal Five Minutes — Man’s family wants answers after Richland jail video shows critical moments before his death

News 5 Investigators have been following the story for several years and obtained a video of the Rios’ final interaction with corrections officers. Watch more about about Rios in the player below:

A Fatal Five Minutes — Man’s family wants answers after Richland jail video shows critical moments before his death

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