Man told officers he was having a stroke — but he was put in jail and died, suit says
A concerned Dollar General customer called 911 when they saw a man outside of the Alabama store clutching his chest and mouthing “help me” in May, according to a federal lawsuit.
Jeremy Lee Thompson, 34, died hours after dispatchers sent two Geneva police officers to him instead of the medical assistance he needed on May 21, the lawsuit filed in November says.
When the officers found Thompson in his car, he told them he was having a stroke, according to a complaint. But they “ignored (his) serious medical needs” and arrested him after claiming he had an open container of alcohol in the car, the complaint states.
“Instead of taking Thompson to the emergency room where the officers would have to remain while he received medical care, the officers transported (him) to the Geneva County Jail,” the complaint states
Thompson’s grandmother, Verlon Elizabeth Thompson, is suing the two officers, accusing them of depriving her grandson of his civil rights and causing his death by not seeking medical care before he was brought to jail and later diagnosed with a heart attack.
The lawsuit contends they violated Geneva County Jail’s inmate admission procedures.
McClatchy News contacted an attorney representing the two officers for comment and the Geneva Police Department on Dec. 20.
Geneva Police Chief Pepper Mock told WDHN that one of the officers named in the lawsuit does not work for the department anymore and the other is still a current officer. He described them both as “good” officers.
Jon Goldfarb, one of the attorneys representing Thompson’s grandmother in the case, told McClatchy News in a statement on Dec. 20 that he looks forward to reviewing the officers’ body camera footage.
“What I suspect it will show is evidence supporting the fact that the officers should have called for medical help, instead of taking Mr. Thompson to jail,” Goldfarb said.
Before the two Geneva police officers reached Thompson, dispatch informed them of what the Dollar General customer observed, including how they saw him clutching his chest and mouthing “help me,” the complaint states.
Although Thompson “clearly” demonstrated he was having a medical emergency when they arrived around 7:10 p.m., they arrested him for public intoxication after claiming an open container of alcohol was in his car, according to the complaint.
His grandmother’s lawsuit argues the officers never conducted a field sobriety test on Thompson, who was found to have no alcohol in his body based on blood tests taken later.
Thompson’s feet drag as he enters the county jail
Thompson’s arrival at the county jail around 7 p.m. was described in the complaint as a struggle — with his feet dragging on the ground as the two officers supported his weight.
Based on a coroner’s report, Thompson was not taken to an emergency room and instead restrained in a chair, the complaint states.
Jail staff became concerned when Thompson started shaking and sweating “profusely” after about an hour and a half, according to the complaint. Then, Geneva County Emergency Medical Services were called and arrived around 9:15 p.m.
First responders gave Thompson ketamine to calm him down and suspected he was suffering from a potential overdose for the past three hours, the complaint states.
By 9:50 p.m., Thompson was unresponsive when he was admitted to the emergency room at Wiregrass Medical Center and diagnosed with a heart attack, according to the complaint.
About 15 minutes later, a nurse wrote down in her notes that Thompson stopped breathing and chest compressions were performed unsuccessfully, the complaint states.
He was pronounced dead by the ER doctor at 11:20 p.m., according to the lawsuit.
Coroner wonders why Thompson didn’t see a doctor
Coroner Danny Adkinson, who investigated Thompson’s death, expressed concern in his report over how Thompson was treated, the complaint states.
“My chief concern: Why was an individual who was reported as clutching his chest and mouthing the words help me not medically cleared before being placed in the county jail? This may have violated the Geneva County Jail Inmate Admission Procedures,” the coroner wrote, according to the complaint.
Thompson’s cause of death was listed as “toxic effects of methamphetamine” in his autopsy report, the complaint states.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that can result in damage to the heart, including increasing the chances of having a heart attack, according to WebMD Connect to Care.
“What most people do not realize is overdosing is not the only cause of death when taking drugs,” Naveen Gupta, a physician in Halifax, Nova Scotia, told WebMD.
“Methamphetamine abusers also die from other causes such as heart failure and cardiovascular arrest, and these are only secondary to overdose death,” Gupta added.
Thompson ‘would likely have survived’ if he got faster care
If the Geneva officers “transported Thompson to the emergency room immediately after encountering him at the Dollar General, Thompson would likely have survived, as methamphetamine overdoses are generally treatable through intravenous administration of benzodiazepines combined with antihypertensive agents,” the complaint states.
In the coroner’s report, he noted how jail policy requires arrestees who seem dangerously intoxicated to be evaluated by a doctor and receive medical care before being taken to jail, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by AL.com, accuses the officers of violating Thompson’s 14th Amendment rights by showing indifference to his medical needs.
It is seeking to recover compensatory and punitive damages and demands a trial by jury.
Geneva is about 110 miles south of Montgomery and located directly above Florida state lines.
Teen died from fentanyl in school bathroom as mom begged staff to find her, CA suit says
Dad collapsed at dinner table before dying. Family’s lawsuit blames supplement Kratom
Officers ignored man slumped in a Boston cell, resulting in his death, mom’s lawsuit says
Walmart knew manager was ‘violent’ before mass shooting at Virginia store, lawsuit says