Wife of jail inmate who died sues Ohio sheriff, county
CLEVELAND (AP) — County jail guards in southern Ohio failed to heed cries of help from a man suffering from acute drug withdrawal symptoms, who died after trying to kill himself inside an isolation cell, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Columbus.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Cara Gibson, the wife of David “Tommy” Gibson, who died at a Columbus hospital in September 2019 two days after he was found unconscious by corrections officers in an isolation cell at the Gallia County Jail.
Gallia County Administrator Melissa Clark declined to comment about the lawsuit on Wednesday.
Gibson was booked into the jail on Sept. 8, 2019, after being arrested on a domestic violence charge. Gibson “complained constantly to jail staff and other inmates his feelings of despair, depression, and pain,” the lawsuit said.
Gibson tested positive for methamphetamine and suboxone, an addiction treatment drug, while at the jail and made two requests to meet with a nurse that were ignored, the lawsuit said.
He was finally evaluated on Sept. 13 and told a nurse he had suicidal thoughts, was anxious and depressed. The nurse prescribed drugs to help ease his withdrawal symptoms and recommended that Gibson be placed in an isolation cell, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, Gibson begged loudly to be taken out of the isolation cell and that corrections officers closed a solid metal door that covered the bars “to avoid hearing his screams.” Inmates asked officers to check on Gibson when the screams stopped. A corrections officer found him unconscious.
Gibson was pronounced dead two days later at a Columbus hospital.
It is the second lawsuit filed against Champlin and Gallia County in the last 15 months following an inmate death.
Amanda Carpenter sued Champlin and the county in June 2020 alleging that deputies and corrections officers showed “deliberate indifference” to the medical condition of Mark Simms, her ex-husband and daughter’s father.
An autopsy showed Simms, 36, died of a heart attack at the jail in December 2018. Interviews of jail personnel by state investigators said Simms was placed in isolation after inmates complained about him vomiting throughout the day. Simms collapsed and fell unconscious as his grandmother waited at the jail to take him to a hospital after posting his bail.
That lawsuit is pending.
The jail and Gallia County Sheriff’s Office began drawing scrutiny in late September 2019 when four male inmates overpowered two female corrections officers and escaped. All four were caught the next day in North Carolina.
The Associated Press reported in October 2019 there had been three other escapes from either the jail or an inmate transport vehicle in the previous 13 months.
A report by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction written after a December 2018 inspection said the jail was at double its capacity of 21 inmates and had failed to comply with 77 state standards. Previous inspections cited many of the same problems.
Champlin said problems at the jail in the basement of the county courthouse had existed for years.
County commissioners are planning to build a new 120-bed jail next to the courthouse.