After spending time in police custody in Columbus, Ohio, a father of three passed away, prompting his family to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Columbus police division. At the moment the lawsuit is “alleging that excessive police force contributed to his death,” and is “seeking more than $2 million.” But what happened? Most people don’t die after being kept in police custody.
It started earlier this year when the man, Jaron B. Thomas, contacted “police from a North Linden residence on Medina Avenue…saying that he was afraid he was dying and he was hearing voices.” He was 36-years-old at the time, and when talking to the dispatcher he said: “I feel like I’m going to get shot. And I’m really paranoid because I was high. And it feels like I’m going to die or something.” So how did he die?
Well, some say his death was accidental, while some claim he died due to excessive police force. According to the coroner’s office in Franklin County, Ohio, “Thomas’ death was accidental and his cause of death was due to a lack of oxygen to his brain that was caused by cardiac arrest and cocaine toxicity.” Because his death was ruled an accident, the county’s Prosecuting Attorney’s Office “declined to present the case to a grand jury.” However, though the death was ruled an accident, a police investigation is “still pending,” and the coroner’s report mentioned Thomas “showed signs of excited delirium,” which is a “medical condition in which a person becomes uncontrollable and can exert themselves until their heart stops.”
The other side of the aisle, Thomas’s family, believe his condition was worsened by the police and ultimately resulted in his death. Sean Walton, the attorney representing the family, released the following statement on the matter:
“Mr. Thomas died due to excited delirium syndrome which, in response to the use of excessive force by police officers, pumped so much adrenaline into his body that it functioned as the equivalent of a heart attack or respiratory failure….The force used on Thomas by police contributed to his death.”
Apparently when police arrived on the scene, “Thomas was on the ground and began kicking while officers were waiting for an ambulance. One officer took Thomas’ legs and folded them in a maximum restraint position to keep him from kicking,” according to police reports. Shortly after, one officer reported that he thought Thomas stopped breathing, but after checking it was discovered that he was still breathing, albeit shallowly. Unfortunately, though “medics arrived within seconds and performed chest compressions followed, Thomas died nine days later in the hospital.”
According to police reports, “it took at least three officers to take Thomas into custody,” and during the encounter, Thomas suffered “abrasions and bruising, as well as a few broken ribs.”
For now, the grief-stricken family is “seeking more than $1 million in punitive damages and more than $1 million in compensatory damages,” and are trying their best to overcome the loss of their husband and father.