Metro Council approves $150K settlement in inmate death case - WSMV News 4

Metro Council approves $150K settlement in inmate death case

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Michael Jones died while in the Metro Jail. Michael Jones died while in the Metro Jail.

On Tuesday night, the Metro Council approved an $150,000 settlement over the death of an inmate.

According to the suit, Michael Jones was pepper sprayed, covered with a hood and then locked in seclusion, where he died.

The suit was filed by Jones’ sister. He had been arrested for public drunkenness.

The suit claims Jones choked to death and suffocated because of the sheriff’s department negligence.

Jones lived a hard life on the streets before he died alone in a cell.

It all started at the Union Rescue Mission on Nov. 19, 2013. Jones was drunk and belligerent. Metro officers pepper sprayed him and took him to jail around 11 p.m.

According to a civil suit and the jail’s own records, Jones acted up in the booking room. He was again pepper sprayed and put in restraints.

In a recorded statement, Deputy Joel Huff said Jones continued to disobey instructions.

“I told him to get down on his knees so we could put leg irons on him,” Huff said. “He refused twice. I pulled out my spray and said if he didn’t get to his knees, I would spray him. He told me to spray him, so I sprayed him.”

Instead of decontaminating Jones from the chemical spray, deputies put a hood, called a spit mask, over his head. The bottom of the hood is solid and the top is mesh to allow air to get in.

Jones was in restraints and locked in a small cell by himself. Another deputy said the mask then shifted.

“The spit mask, he had been trying to get it off, and he had gotten part of it way up over his nose,” said Sgt. Scott Saterlee. “He was yelling, ‘I can’t breathe! Why did you do this?’ I informed him, ‘Mr. Jones, if you’re screaming and yelling, you can breathe.’ He said, ‘OK, yeah.’”

The next time deputies checked on Jones less than 10 minutes later, he wasn’t moving.

“Like I said, at first I thought he had passed out,” Huff said.

Nurses tried to save Jones, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital. He had choked and suffocated on his own vomit.

The suit claims Metro employees were negligent because they failed to monitor the condition of a man in their custody.

The Metro Legal Department is offering $150,000 to Jones’ sister to settle the case, saying it’s not clear that the spit hood led to his death. The hood is not supposed to be used on people left alone or people who have trouble breathing.

If the case had gone to trial, a court could have awarded damages up to $300,000.

No disciplinary action was taken against the sheriff's office employees, but authorities say the agency has taken measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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