When law enforcement officials take any person into custody, they have a duty to ensure their safety and well-being. Whether in the back of a patrol car, a jail cell, or in prison, police officers and agencies can be held liable if that individual suffers an injury as a result of negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm. In a tragic Florida case, a retiree was arrested by police in Key West after a routine traffic stop and died in custody. The case is still under investigation and could lead to a wrongful death claim against the responsible officers and departments.
According to reports, the Michigan man had moved to Key West to spend his retirement years. At only 61-years-of age, his life came to an abrupt end after he was taken into custody by police. Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of victims and their families. In the event that you or someone you love suffers an injury at the hands of a negligent or harmful individual or entity, you do have the right to take action. Our firm is committed to raising awareness and to taking legal action to prevent future accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
This case is still under investigation as the victim died in police custody hours after his arrest. Reports in this case are conflicting. According to the victims’ family, the 61-year-old retired automaker wanted to return to a warmer climate and the beach. Last Thanksgiving, the man died while in police custody and his family is alleging homicide. The family also believes that there was an active cover-up to protect police officers from criminal charges.
According to records, officers pulled him over for reckless driving. Police allege that the victim fled the scene, at which point he was chased down by the officers. The man had a prior record of domestic abuse and some other run-ins with the law, but there was no explanation of how this man died in police custody. Police charged the defendant with resisting arrest, but emergency responder reports indicate that the police told them the victim ran away and collapsed on the beach. Paramedics responded to the scene but he never regained consciousness. Hospital records indicate that the victim was “found” without a pulse. He was driven to the hospital, but was later pronounced dead due to lack of oxygen to the brain.
Challenging both of these accounts, a cell phone video shot by a bystander shows that the defendant was walking away and surrendering before the police approached with guns. Though police claim to be following up on the investigation, there are other facts that indicate police failed to follow protocol after taking the suspect into custody. Police did not notify the family until he had been on life support for four days. Under Florida law, an autopsy is required whenever a victim dies in police custody, but in this case, an autopsy was never performed.
An investigation is continuing in this case, but there are concerns about a conflict of interest. In complicated cases involving injury or accidental death and police custody, a civil wrongful death action can help to uncover the facts if no criminal charges are filed. In many cases, a civil action is necessary to spur a criminal case.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
More Blog Entries:
Florida School Liability for Child Injuries, Jan. 26, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
Florida’s Fight for Booster Seat Laws, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, November 28, 2013