Inmate's family files wrongful death lawsuit

David O'Quin (Source: Family)
David O'Quin (Source: Family)
East Baton Rouge Parish Prison
East Baton Rouge Parish Prison
Federal Courthouse in Baton Rouge
Federal Courthouse in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The father of a man who died inside a Louisiana jail has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the sheriff's office and emergency medical services.

The lawsuit charges the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office with the wrongful death of David O'Quin, 43, of Baton Rouge. O'Quin died in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Feb. 26, 2013, which was 13 days after being booked on disturbing the peace charges from an incident in the family home.

"He was in and out of prison the last 15 years and had been interdicted a couple of times in Baton Rouge, it's my understanding," said Jean-Paul Robert, the attorney representing the O'Quin family.

O'Quin was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and when he was off his meds even his family admits he could be a problem to deal with. He was arrested after his father, Otis O'Quin, called police. The lawsuit states once the father realized his son was in a jail and not in a medical facility, he began making phone calls.

"Once he realized, he contacted the jail and informed them he was off his medication, what his history was and that he should be treated accordingly. He called a couple of times to check on the status of his son and then the next thing, he gets a phone call to tell him his son's dead," Robert added.

Otis O'Quin turned to the sheriff's office after his son was found dead in a cell. He initially worked with officials, but then decided to sue. The lawsuit alleges gross negligence inside the prison on both the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Medical Services.

O'Quin reportedly had gotten combative while in custody, threatening and spitting on some jailers. He was then allegedly beaten and strapped into a chair, where the suit claims he was left for up to seven days with very few breaks.

"All of this activity and beating ultimately resulted in David developing wounds on his ankles that were open and from being in his own feces and urine, it created an infection that ultimately killed him," Robert explained.

"A doctor did not visit David O'Quin until six days after his incarceration. The barbaric restraints used by prison officials lacerated David O'Quin's skin and veins and his own feces and urine infected and killed him," the suit added, in part.

The lawsuit also stated the doctor who examined O'Quin offered him psychotic medication, but the inmate refused to take it and state law states inmates cannot be forced to take medication. The sheriff's office said it is not responsible for medical treatment in the prison. Instead, that is contracted out to EMS, which would not comment. The sheriff's office also said it is reviewing its policies inside the prison.

"What we've found through this case is we've found an overall bigger issue that I think we're dealing with as a community is mental health issues," said Casey Rayborn Hicks with EBRSO. "We have a lot of mentally ill people that are coming into the prison and we're seeing that number growing."

The case has been assigned to Federal Judge Brian Jackson.

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