Inmate's family sues over death while in jail

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Felix Torres By Mike Gertzman Felix Torres By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The family of an Arizona man who died from an ulcer nearly a year ago while in a Maricopa County jail has alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the jail's medical staff botched his care and jail officers ignored his pleas for help.

The lawsuit says 47-year-old Felix Martinez Torres Jr. died last Oct. 5 after the medical staff provided the wrong medicine to treat his ulcers and didn't respond properly to his condition.

"This was a needless, cruel and utterly unnecessary death," said Michael Manning, the family's lawyer.

The case was filed against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the county, which is responsible for medical services in the jails. Medical providers involved in Torres' care while in jail also were sued.

County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick declined to comment on the lawsuit. Arpaio's Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre said the jails' medical operation is not under the authority of the sheriff.

The lawsuit doesn't specify damages being sought by Torres' family. The family previously filed a notice of claim - a precursor to a lawsuit - seeking $3.25 million.

Torres was brought to jail after Mesa police stopped him for riding his bike against traffic and discovered that he had outstanding arrest warrants for driving with a suspended license and failing to appear in court.

The lawsuit said Torres brought up his history with ulcers when he was brought to jail and was evaluated days later by a doctor who noted he had hernia pain.

The doctor ordered an injection of a drug that shouldn't be used by people with ulcers and had Torres transferred to a county hospital where he was treated for a hernia, the lawsuit states. He was then discharged.

On the day he was returned to jail, Torres complained of pain and asked jail officers for help. They failed to respond to his pleas for help but finally brought him to the medical staff when Torres collapsed in his cell, according to the lawsuit.

The suit said Torres was later returned to his cell and continued to ask for help, but those pleas were ignored.

A jail officer on a security walk found Torres slumped over on a toilet. He wasn't breathing and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Medical examiners determined Torres died from natural causes resulting from complications of a stomach ulcer.

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