AUGUSTA, Maine — A Kennebec County jail officer pepper-sprayed a Black inmate and slammed him against a table without cause after another guard directed a racial slur at the inmate in a 2019 incident, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday.

Jonathan Afanador was being detained at the Augusta jail prior to a trial in August 2019 when prisoners on his cell block were removed from their cells in what his attorney, Matthew Morgan, called a “full-floor shakedown” — or a cell search — in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

As Officer Nathan Willhoite and another guard removed Afanador from his cell, the second guard called the inmate a racial slur, the lawsuit says. After that, it alleges Willhoite was walking down the line of inmates when he grabbed Afanador, who was standing against a wall reading.

Willhoite then slammed Afanador’s chest against a table before handcuffing him and placing him in isolation and he did not receive medical treatment until the next day, the lawsuit alleges. Other officers were present for the incident, which was recorded on a jail video system, and did nothing to intervene despite “the absence of any physical danger” to guards, the suit says.

Those actions amounted to an excessive use of force and violated Afanador’s civil rights, wrote Morgan. He added that Kennebec County showed “deliberate indifference to the rights of Afanador” by “failing to conduct sufficient training, discipline, or supervision” of Willhoite, who lives in Wiscasset and was “a known bad apple” before the incident.

He was one of several Kennebec County correctional officers mentioned in a 2016 federal lawsuit against the county from three female officers alleging they were unlawfully terminated based on gender, sexual orientation, religion and physical disability and that the county failed to investigate allegations of hazing and similar reports, according to the Kennebec Journal.

Court filings include allegations of Willhoite making racist remarks, including that “all Black people look alike” and saying an inmate “needs to be shot and put into a foreign jail.” He also said it would not have mattered if an inmate who had been the victim of an attempted hanging died. The suit was settled and dismissed in 2019, according to court documents.

Despite knowing of the allegations, the county “failed to take appropriate remedial action and fire Willhoite to avoid future instances of racist and violent behavior,” Morgan wrote. The suit alleges that the county was aware of incidents in which Willhoite bragged about slamming an inmate against a wall and discussed harming animals at work before the incident.

Requests for comment to Sheriff Ken Mason and County Administrator Robert Devlin were not immediately returned. A Bangor Daily News search of county disciplinary records over the past five years turned up only one mention of Willhoite, who was simply present for another incident.

Afanador, who is now 25, was convicted of aggravated drug trafficking in May. He is serving his sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren and his earliest release date is in early 2023, according to a state database.

The lawsuit comes at a time of heightened racial tension in the country and a series of lawsuits against Maine correctional facilities related to the coronavirus. Protests against police brutality and institutional racism went on for weeks following the high-profile killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other Black individuals at the hands of police.

BDN writer Erin Rhoda contributed to this report.

Correction: The lawsuit claims that the jail guard slammed the inmate against a table, not a wall.