Inmate’s family files wrongful death lawsuit against Sheriff

More online: Watch our video of jail officials responding to Richardson

The administrator of an estate of a man who died in the Montgomery County Jail two years ago has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against several officials including Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer.

Robert Andrew Richardson, 28, died May 19, 2012 after corrections officers and medical personnel responded to Richardson's cell when his cellmate in Pod D cell 544 said Richardson needed assistance. The entire incident was captured on jail surveillance video obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

The suit alleges several jail employees handcuffed and subdued Richardson on his stomach outside the cell door while he was having a medical emergency. The suit said that Richardson “was essentially crushed to death by various corrections officers.”

A Montgomery County review report concluded that jail employees followed procedure and provided basic care to Richardson. It noted that the coroner’s office determined the death to be an “accident” due to cardiac arrhythmia” which was contributed to by “marijuana intoxication and obesity.”

The suit names as defendants Plummer, two deputy sheriffs, two sergeants, seven corrections officers, jail health-care provider NaphCare Inc., a NaphCare doctor, medic and four nurses. The wrongful death lawsuit makes seven claims, including excessive force, deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, cruel and unusual punishment, assault and battery, failure to supervise, train and take corrective measures and for custom, policy or practice causing constitutional violations.

A spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said the office would not comment on pending litigation, but that no jail medical policies changed after Richardson’s death.

The video shows various law enforcement and medical personnel responding to at 3:18 p.m. that day. It shows officers subduing Richardson on his stomach and trying to administer two shots of the anxiety drug Ativan. Richardson was on his stomach or his right side — sometimes with a towel between his head and the floor — for 23 minutes before medics turned him over onto his back and began life-saving efforts.

Cleveland-based attorney Nicholas DiCello, the attorney for Richardson’s family and whose firm specializes in such cases, said Richardson was in the jail for two days after being arrested for failing to show for a juvenile court hearing about him not paying his child support.

The video shows medical personnel tried to revive the 6-foot, 282-pound Richardson until about 4 p.m. and covered his body with a white sheet at about 4:04 p.m. His body remained on the floor outside his cell for about an hour as officials took photos of the scene, gathered items and engaged in discussion.

“The CO’s (corrections officers) used force — we claim it was excessive force — he was an obese man, they put him in a prone position and put weight on his back for an extended period of time,” DiCello said. “They’ll have to answer for why it is that they felt the need to continue to restrain him in the way they did for all that length of time given the nature of the call to the cell.”

The sheriff’s office completed a risk management review report in November 2012 which quoted a sergeant saying Richardson was “disoriented and in a state of panic” and that he saw “blood and saliva” coming from Richardson’s mouth. The sergeant wrote that Richardson, who was not responding to verbal orders, was probably experiencing an unknown medical condition.

The sergeant also wrote Richardson was “thrashing around and grunting” and that he prevented an oxygen mask to be put on him, biting a medic and saying, “Get that off me. I need out. Get me out of here.”

After two attempts at an injection to calm him, the sergeant noticed after two or three minutes Richardson needed no further restraint, but also that Richardson was not breathing and had no pulse, leading to chest compression and other treatment. Paramedics from the Dayton Fire Dept. pronounced Richards dead at 4:08 p.m.

The sheriff’s report concluded employees “restricted Mr. Richardson’s movement to prevent Mr. Richard from injuring himself” and that employees “complied with Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures.”

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