Family of inmate sues Mesa after jail-cell suicideThe family of a Mesa man who hanged himself inside the city jail is suing for $400,000 in damages, claiming detention officers should have adequately watched him.
The U.S. District Court lawsuit brought by Miletta Lewis, sister of Marvin Lewis, names the city and its detention officers.
It claims Lewis' constitutional rights were violated because officers did not place him in a safe environment.
The suit also accuses the city and its detention officers of being negligent because they failed to closely monitor Lewis, who was found hanged in his cell April 9, 2008.
While he was being booked into the jail early that morning, Lewis told a jail guard he was picked up on a minor probation violation from Kentucky and said that he had once been jailed for murder, police reports show.
One detention officer said in her report that Lewis was one of the most-calm prisoners throughout the jail that night and that he "said he had a lot of respect for female officers."
Lewis described himself as a local landscaper. He told jailer he was arrested as ran outside because he thought his car was being stolen. In fact, police were closing in on him to arrest him on the outstanding warrant.
"I did not think that he seemed upset about his charges or upset about going back to Kentucky," the detention officer stated in her report.
Lewis was placed into a cell with another prisoner and released at 2:05 a.m. to use the telephone, police reports state. About 10 minutes later, he was returned to his cell, and his cellmate was allowed to use the phone.
Meanwhile, the officer who booked Lewis had placed a third inmate into the cell, and that inmate found Lewis.
"I did not have a chance to start back down the hall when (the other inmate) began banging on the door and yelling" that Lewis hung himself, the jailer wrote.
As other detention officers arrived, they found Lewis with a pair of socks tied around his neck and hanging from one of four hooks on the cell wall, according to police reports.
EMS personnel responded, but could not revive Lewis.
The lawsuit brought by Lewis' sister claims the city and jail guards "failed to ensure that Mr. Lewis had a holding cell free from suicide opportunities such as hooks anchored in the concrete wall close to the ceiling. (The city and detention officers) failed to take any precautions whatsoever."
City officials deny the lawsuit's claims.
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