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Loudoun County notified about water valve issues days before inmate was burned in shower

LCSO said deputies had no reason to believe the shower was working improperly since the county inspected the maintenance issue two days before the incident.

LEESBURG, Va. — Two weeks before an inmate at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center was reportedly burned by a hot shower, jail staff issued work orders to the county that indicated there were problems with the water temperatures.

Richard Piland, 22, recently filed a $7 million lawsuit against Sheriff Mike Chapman and one of the deputies. He claims the department intentionally tortured him.

On Feb. 4, 2022, family and attorneys for Richard Piland said he suffered severe burns and blisters to his arm after he was placed in the hot shower of the medical ward of the jail for about 45 seconds.

Deputies had just pepper sprayed his cell after Piland covered his window with toothpaste and refused to comply with orders. Out of safety, jail authorities say they needed to get him out, but strapped him to a chair after he allegedly resisted to go into a different shower to wash away the spray.

The shower, which is only activated by a warm or cool water button, had a mechanical failure, according to county officials. Since the system failed to regulate the mixing valve, water temperatures reached more than the accepted 110-degree mark.

“Our deputies had no idea that there was any kind of issue with the water there,” Sheriff Chapman told WUSA9 in a recent sit-down interview. “There was nothing intentionally done by our deputies to harm Mr. Piland.”

Chapman said his staff quickly provided medical attention and began an investigation. The mixing valve was replaced soon after. 

WUSA9 obtained copies of work orders from the jail to the county’s “Sprocket” system, an online, non-emergency service request system used to submit work orders of all types at all county facilities to the Department of General Services.

Although the water valve was in the jail, General Services is responsible for maintenance.

On Jan. 22, 2022, one worker order said, “Inmates state the water in the cells and shower in Medical are way to HOT. They are unable to stand under the water while in the shower.” General Services noted how it adjusted the mixing valve and “will continue to monitor.”

On Jan. 25, 2022, another said there were adjustments to the valve and will rebuild it.

On Jan. 28, 2022, a third work order said in the medical inmate shower, “Inmates have complained that the hot water in the shower is too hot and can cause burns. The staff bathroom in the hallway, which most likely runs off the same water, has hot water that is too hot also. There was a previous sprocket from 1-24-22 about this same issue and it said that maintenance is monitoring the issue. It does not appear that the previous adjustment was sufficient.”

Two days before Piland was burned, another note reported the mixing valve has been pulled apart and checked for any blockage. It was put back together and adjusted again.

“We assume that these things are working properly and functioning properly, and, in this case, it was not,” Chapman added.

In a statement to WUSA9, LCSO said, “County work orders clearly show that the Department of General Services checked and repaired the water mixing valve as recently as two days before the incident. LCSO deputies had no reason to believe the shower was operating improperly when Mr. Piland was brought there.”

A representative for General Services said there is no regulation that require it inspect valves on a routine basis. However, the department is installing additional equipment that would monitor water temperatures. 

Piland has since been moved to a new jail further away in Virginia.

He was in jail for more than two years for a sexual assault charge. Sheriff officials say he had been combative in the past, cited for assaults on several deputies and a nurse.

His family argues Piland has mental health issues.

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