A federal lawsuit filed against Ramsey County and sheriff’s office correctional officers alleges they took a woman down to the ground in the jail, badly breaking her leg, and she “languished in agony” for 17 hours before receiving hospital treatment.
As a result of last year’s encounter, the lawsuit asserts, Miri Mozuch-Stafford, 29, has “catastrophic disfigurement” to her lower leg. The lawsuit seeks more than $10 million in damages.
The 21-page civil complaint, filed last week by her attorneys Richard Student and Steve Meshbesher, claims that Mozuch-Stafford’s civil rights were violated by “unreasonable” and “excessive” force and “deliberate, reckless and malicious” delay of medical treatment.
“It’s a sad deal,” Student said Thursday of Mozuch-Stafford’s injuries. “The resulting disfigurement and deformity was because of the more than 17-hour delay in treating the compartment syndrome, which is a common complication with a fracture and is something that you’re supposed to be on the alert for medically.”
The lawsuit names Ramsey County correctional officers Thomas Kunkel, Lauren Arnevik, Olivia Rezac, Domonik Stanton, Melissa Hildebrandt and Mohamud Salad, as well as jail doctor Michele Van Vranken.
A Ramsey County spokesperson said Thursday the county does not comment on pending litigation.
According to the lawsuit, Mozuch-Stafford was arrested at a hotel in St. Paul early on Feb. 8, 2021, for alleged disorderly conduct. Upon entering a holding cell at the Ramsey County jail, an officer gave a verbal command or comment to Mozuch-Stafford, who then “began to engage the officer verbally,” the lawsuit said.
Officers Kunkel, Arnevik, Rezac and Stanton “proceeded to execute a disorganized and unreasonable takedown maneuver” of Mozuch-Stafford, in which she was pulled and pushed in different directions and punched in the face, while her hands were cuffed behind her back; she was “compliant, and not actively or passively resisting,” the complaint states.
The takedown, which happened at 3:55 a.m., was captured on jail security cameras and body-worn cameras of multiple officers, according to the complaint. Mozuch-Stafford sustained a fractured left tibia and a severed artery, injuries that “required immediate emergency medical treatment,” the complaint says.
Mozuch-Stafford’s legs were put in shackles, and officers left her face down on the ground. The lawsuit goes on to say that an employee of Ramsey County, whose identity is currently unknown, examined Mozuch-Stafford’s legs at 4:12 a.m. A note in an inmate observation log states she was “evaluated by the nurse for foot pain,” the complaint says.
Five minutes later, officers Hildebrandt and Stanton dragged Mozuch-Stafford across the cell floor to a concrete bench. She “writhed in pain, hands cuffed behind her back and legs shackled” for the next hour, when Kunkel and Stanton then removed the handcuffs and leg restraints.
Just after noon, jail doctor Van Vranken examined Mozuch-Stafford and in a medical note indicated her lower left leg was swollen to 19 inches versus 14 to 15 inches on the right, and that she was experiencing severe pain, the complaint says.
Correctional officers placed Mozuch-Stafford in a wheelchair and rolled her back into her cell, where she sat for the next nine hours before being transported to Regions Hospital. She underwent multiple orthopedic, vascular and skin graft surgeries to relieve her severe compartment syndrome and other injuries caused by diminished blood flow, and to repair bones and artery tissue in her left leg, according to the complaint.
Because of her injuries, Mozuch-Stafford, a nursing assistant by training and past experience, will be partially or totally unable to perform such or similar work, the complaint says.