Lawsuit filed in jail death



Brian OLeary, with his children.
  • Brian O'Leary and his children.

On Aug. 17, 2010, Brian O'Leary died in the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. A heavy drinker, O'Leary had been booked into the jail a couple days earlier on his second DUI arrest in a matter of weeks.

When O'Leary was booked, it was clear to the jail staff that he was dealing with alcohol dependency, and would need to be watched for symptoms of withdrawal. Though those weren't manifesting at booking, they soon began. According to internal jail documentation, O'Leary's health quickly deteriorated.

We wrote extensively on O'Leary's death, and his time in the jail, here.

By Aug. 16, his second day at CJC, O'Leary was demonstrating clear signs of alcohol withdrawal. According to his medical evaluation, he had hand tremors, and his blood pressure and pulse had jumped to hypertensive levels. He was running a temperature, and had a headache.

The jail physician started him on a regimen of vitamins and drugs, noting that he was in a moderate stage of detoxification. But he didn't get moved anywhere.

The next morning, a Code Blue was called out of B3.

According to his Problem Oriented Records, a nurse arrived only a minute later, at 11:15. O'Leary was unresponsive. His face was dusky, and his skin blue. CPR attempts failed. An ambulance was called at 11:30. He was transferred to Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead at 12:18.

His sons, Brandon and Shane, have always suspected that their father's death might have been due to a lack of care that he received at the jail. Their lawyer, Denver-based Phil Harding, has been clear that they were going pursue a lawsuit against the jail and members of the staff.

Yesterday, they filed a lawsuit in United States District Court. You can download that complaint: O_leary_suit.pdf

The suit names as defendants El Paso County, the Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Terry Maketa and Undersheriff Paula Presley, Correctional Healthcare Management and others.

The complaint briefly details O'Leary's last days, alleging:

"That Mr. O'Leary was denied access to adequate and competent medical treatment and that the acts and/or policies and practices of the Defendants were knowing, deliberate and intentional, in disregard for the health and well-being of Mr. O'Leary and that such acts, policies and practices are shocking to the conscience of civilized persons and intolerable in a society purportedly governed by laws and considerations of due process."

The defendants have not filed a response.

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