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Father of Deschutes Jail inmate who died suing for $10.7 million


The father of an inmate who died last December at the Deschutes County Jail, prompting a local and now state investigation, has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Deschutes County, seeking $10.7 million in damages..

An attorney for Edwin Mays Jr., the father of Edwin Mays III., 31, filed the civil lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

The lawsuit had been expected, since a tort notice was filed a few months ago. The 22-page document outlines six claims against the county, the sheriff’s office and several deputies, including civil rights violations, denial of essential medical care and wrongful death.

Noting information made public by DA John Hummel in a jail security video of the night Mays died Dec. 14, the document accuses jail staff of making fun of Mays while he was dying in a holding cell. The video showed staff mimicking and laughing at Mays.

The lawsuit also claims jail staff lied to investigators about how Mays was treated and how he was found.

The family alleges that Mays was subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” and was forced to drown in his own vomit.

An autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner confirmed Mays died from a methamphetamine overdose after his arrest on heroin possession and other charges.

At Hummel’s request, the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating Mays’ death and jail policies and procedures for medical treatment.

The lawsuit names as defendants the county, Sheriff Larry Blanton, Sgts. Brian Bishop and Tedd Morris and seven deputies: Jesse Hurley, Amanda Parks, David Chambers, Rick Benitzez, Randy Thompson, Joseph Toman and Marshall Looney.

It gives a detailed timeline from Mays’ arrest to his death in a holding cell, claiming that Mays was threatened with a “long, painful wait” when he did not respond to one deputy’s questioning upon arrival at the jail. It notes his booking process was never completed “due to his erratic behavior.”

Around 8 p.m., it claimed a deputy asked, “There really is no nurse tonight?” to which another deputy replied, “No.” (The sheriff’s office is seeking added staffing from the county to assure 24/7 nursing coverage.)

“Eddie Mays was held in the booking area of the jail from 5:37 p.m. to 9:01 p.m., during which time his medical distress became more pronounced and severe,” the lawsuit states, claiming that Mays had “requested medical care” but did not receive it.

“As a result of the actions and inactions of defendants, Eddie Mays suffered a long death knowing that none of the officers would help him,” the suit alleges.

“The ability of the officers to behave in the manner they did, without repercussions, despite their actions being videotaped and an investigation undertaken, indicates a culture and philosophy where cruel, neglectful and disrespectful treatment of citizens is permitted, if not condoned, supported and rewarded,” it states.

“The killing of Eddie Mays was unjustified and unreasonable and shocks the conscience,” the lawsuit says.

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