Teenager Died in Juvenile Lockup After Guards Ignored His Pleas for Seven Hours

 Eighteen-year-old Eric Perez, who was locked up in a Miami-Dade juvenile detention center after being arrested with a negligible amount of marijuana, died last July after his pleas for medical treatment were ignored for seven hours by jail staff. Perez had sustained two injuries to his head in lock-up, and though he spent a whole night "hallucinating, vomiting, soiling himself and seeing help from guards," he was allowed to die without receiving medical care. He had been dead for over an hour before guards noticed. His jailers now face a grand jury for their negligence in his death. Miami Herald:

“The only attempt to seek an outside medical opinion during the entire episode was two phone calls to the head nurse that went unanswered during the night,” the report, called a presentment, said. “The officers’ response to Mr. Perez’s hallucinations, instability and cries of pain were to simply observe him as he lay on the floor vomiting and defecating in his underwear. More effort was spent cleaning the floor around the youth than attending to his welfare.”

The Medical Examiner’s Office in West Palm Beach ruled the cause of death to be intracranial hemorrhage, a type of stroke, of unknown origin. The manner of death was undetermined.

The details are horrific: after a bout of "horseplay" with officers (really?), Perez had his head struck against a wall and began hallucinating. He was unable to stand, and when he did so, he was wobbly and struck his head again on a table when he collapsed. Despite vomiting and defecating on himself, he was systematically ignored... because of institutional laziness:

One officer on duty that night told grand jurors that she overheard a supervisor say Eric “was faking, and he did not want to fill out extra paperwork.”

As Eric became increasingly sick and incontinent, the report said, “the odor” became “overpowering.” In the ensuing hours, officers dragged Eric’s limp body on a mattress pad into a medical confinement cell, and propped him up with pillows. Officers then went about cleaning the mess — an effort, grand jurors said, that consumed far more of their attention then Eric’s care.

At about 7 a.m., a surveillance video captured what authorities now believe were Eric’s last movements: His arms jerked slightly away from his body. The medical examiner later determined the movement indicated “the death of Mr. Perez.” Still, it wasn’t until 7:51 that a female officer stationed just outside Eric’s cell — so she could watch him through the night — realized that Eric had stopped snoring.

Even more horrific? Eight years earlier, another 17-year-old, Omar Paisley, died of a ruptured appendix after being ignored for three days. Said former Miami-Dade Superintendent Dale Dobuler, who resigned after seeing vast institutional negligence, "History repeats itself and this was, frankly, inevitable." Read the full story at the Miami Herald.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at March 12, 2012, 4:05am

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