Yamhill County Jail Inmate Who Died in Jail Tried to Get Help 19 Times Over Five Hours

For more than five hours, a Yamhill County Jail inmate writhed in pain on his mattress, clutched his side, walked 19 times to the door to press an intercom button for help and urinated blood in the toilet inside his cell, but no one came to help Jed Hawk Myers, according to jail records, video and police investigative reports.

Myers had been moved to a medical cell about 7:30 p.m. on May 27, 2015, after he was assaulted by two other inmates in his general population cell. He appeared disoriented with what looked like a dislocated shoulder and complained of pain to his side, jail guards noticed.

But after an initial check from a medical technician, no nurse, doctor, deputy or anyone monitoring the medical cell from a surveillance control room came back into Myers’ cell to check on him until he fell to the floor beside his bed and appeared to stop breathing, jail video and court reports show. His head slumped down, and he didn’t move again.

Myers, 34, died alone about 1 a.m. on May 28, 2015 – the day of his expected release from custody on a probation and post-prison supervision violation.

On Monday, a personal representative for Myers’ estate filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Yamhill County, its jail guards and medical staff, alleging they denied basic medical care to Myers and that their negligence led to his wrongful death.

The suit seeks at least $12 million in economic and non-economic damages, as well as unspecified punitive damages.

Jail staff ignored “all the obvious and horrific symptoms that were plainly visible on the monitor for over five hours,” attorney Matthew D. Kaplan wrote in the lawsuit.

“They basically isolated this guy who they know is hurt and watch him die,” Kaplan said. “He has to stop breathing for them to finally go into his cell again and check on him.”

Lawyer says man died in jail after receiving no treatment after assault by other inmates
The two inmates who beat Myers were convicted and sent to prison in the attack after an investigation by the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office and McMinnville police.

An administrative review by two outside jail commanders from Lincoln and Multnomah counties found an overreliance by Yamhill County jail staff on video surveillance, which “diminishes personal checks of inmates and can create a false sense of security.” The review also recommended an on-call doctor be notified in a medical emergency.

Yamhill County’s lawyer Christian Boenisch couldn’t be reached for immediate comment, but his receptionist said he doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Myers, according to the state medical examiner, died of blunt force abdominal trauma. He suffered lacerations to his left kidney with severe internal bleeding, a contusion to his skull and a brain injury, as well as rib and clavical fractures.

One of the inmates charged later told police he had dragged Myers off his upper bunk bed, with his head striking the concrete floor, and then punched him 10 times, according to a court affidavit.

Jail video supplied by the family’s lawyers captures all the times Myers unsuccessfully appeared to seek help after he was moved from a second-floor jail cell to the medical unit.

In medical cell B, a jail medical technician gave Myers a brief check about 7:30 p.m., according to the lawsuit, jail video and investigative reports. He noticed Myers sweating profusely with an elevated heart rate. A deputy also pointed out a contusion on the right side of Myers’ head.

After several tries, the technician was unable to get a blood pressure reading and left, the technician told investigators. He suggested Myers be placed on a 30-minute medical watch. That entailed monitoring the jail security camera footage of his cell, coupled with hourly checks of deputies peering into the cell window, according to the administrative investigation.

Jail staff could see surveillance footage from the control room that showed the presence of red liquid in Myers’ cell toilet after he stood to urinate just before 9 p.m., but a jail sergeant speculated that it had come from fruit juice or some food in the jail commissary, according to investigators’ interviews with the sergeant and other deputies.

Sgt. Woody Little didn’t consider that it might be blood, but thought it likely was from a liquid drink or grape jelly, the lawsuit says.

The suit accuses jail staff of not evaluating Myers properly once he was brought to the medical unit, not alerting a jail nurse or doctor to check on him or calling an ambulance to take Myers to the hospital for diagnosis or treatment.

Yamhill County jail’s policy on medical responsibilities says corrections staff members are to ensure that all inmates’ health care needs “are promptly and efficiently cared for by professional health care providers.” Its policy on medical emergencies notes that 24-hour emergency medical care is available at Willamette Medical Center’s emergency room. Serious injuries include severe pain of unknown origin, a head injury and severe bleeding, the policy says. If jail staff are in doubt about the seriousness of an injury, they should arrange transportation to the hospital, the policy says.

The suit also names the jail doctor as a defendant, Dr. Mark Rose, contending he failed to train non-medical staff on how to respond to medical emergencies in the jail and didn’t have medical staff available during certain evening hours.

The suit further alleges that the jail policies are flawed, allowing non-medical staff to make decisions on medical emergencies and not requiring competent medical staff to be available or on call.

One jail deputy told investigators during a criminal investigation into the death that jail guards sometimes silenced cell intercoms when an inmate was too “needy,” according to an investigator’s recorded interview with the deputy.

It’s unclear if the intercom inside Myers’ medical cell was silenced, but the surveillance video shows that he repeatedly tried to seek help by going to the intercom and no one responded, Kaplan said.

Another inmate in the medical unit, Thomas O’Donnell, told investigators that he heard Myers screaming, “Help me, help me!” so he got up and pushed his own intercom. “I didn’t understand why they didn’t take him to the hospital,” O’Donnell told police investigators in a recorded interview.

At 12:52 a.m., a deputy finally returned to Myers’ cell after noticing him slumped against the wall. The deputy couldn’t find a pulse and called emergency medics. Myers was declared dead at 1:15 a.m., county reports indicate.

Myers had been in custody on a four-day jail sanction for not reporting properly to his probation officer. He had prior felon in possession of a firearm and attempting to elude police convictions. He grew up in McMinnville and leaves behind a daughter, who turns 5 on Friday.

Joshua Mulbreght, 27, of Newberg, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and is serving a six-year and three-month sentence in Myers’ death. Zachary Chronister, 22, was convicted of second-degree assault and sentenced to five years and 10 months.

According to the lawsuit, no one in the jail was disciplined for not ensuring Myers got treated for his injuries.

Source: https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/05/yamhill_county_jail_inmate_ass.html