Jail Guards Refuse Medical Care to Vomiting Teenager, Boy Dies in Jail Cell After Suffering for Six Hours

Chris | InformationLiberation
Aug. 06, 2011

Note, the boy was originally stopped by police for "riding his bike without a nightlight."

The Sun Sentinel reports:
Florida juvenile justice administrators confirmed late Monday that guards and supervisors at a West Palm Beach lockup never sought emergency care for a teenager who suffered in pain for hours before he finally died.

As the Department of Juvenile Justice's investigation into the July 10 death of Eric Perez, 18, continued Monday, authorities revealed that the lockup's top administrator, Superintendent Anthony Flowers, was among four employees suspended last week. Another two employees, a guard and a supervisor, were fired.

"While the cause of death is yet unknown, it is clear that staff at the facility during the crisis did not contact 911 in accordance with DJJ policies and training,'' Samadhi Jones, a DJJ spokeswoman in Tallahassee, said in a statement Monday. [...]

DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters, a former head of Miami's juvenile assessment center, said in a prepared statement: "We took immediate action because we cannot tolerate staff not following policies and procedures, especially as it relates to the medical care of youth in our custody."

One of the two people fired in the incident, guard Floyd Powell, 35, told The Miami Herald on Monday he was fired after he disclosed to investigators that he was forbidden to call 911 when he became concerned for the teen, who was screaming that his head hurt and had vomited for several hours.

"I was going to call 911, but my supervisor looked at me in the face and said, 'He'll be fine. Don't call 911,'" Powell said.

Powell's one-page termination letter, provided to the newspaper late Monday under Florida's public records law, said only that Powell had failed to complete a probationary period.

Powell's lawyer, Cathy L. Purvis Lively of Lake Worth, said she will seek damages from the state for his "wrongful termination."

"This guy desperately wanted to call 911," Lively said. "He was told, No, you are not to do that."

Powell could not make the call on his own, Lively said, because the "module" where he oversaw several detained youth did not contain a telephone, and Powell could not reach a phone without walking away from his post and leaving other youth unsupervised. Guards are not allowed to bring their personal cellphones into the lockup.

And though Powell and other guards did notify an on-call nurse to see Eric, the nurse failed to return two messages, he said.

"I asked [Perez] 'What's going on?," Powell said. "He wasn't talking. He was crying out loud in pain."

Leaders of the Palm Beach Public Defender's office told The Herald late Monday that several of the other detainees in the B2 Module with Perez confirmed to their attorneys that Eric had pleaded for help for hours without any success.

"It is our understanding that at least one child, and possibly more, tried to get assistance for this child," Public Defender Carey Haughwout said.
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