Brigitte Thomas, mother of Bryan Penner, files wrongful death suit
(Update: adding info from county's response court filing)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Two years after a Bend man labeled the suspect in his former girlfriend's murder killed himself in the Deschutes County Jail, his mother is suing the county sheriff's office and several jail staff for what she said was a preventable death.
Bryan Penner had been publicly named as the suspect by authorities in the disappearance and slaying of ex-girlfriend Sara Gomez.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed earlier this year in federal court by Penner's mother, Brigitte Thomas, claims jail officials failed to protect her son.
The suit claims almost three weeks before his suicide in March of 2018, Penner was caught on jail surveillance attempting to hang himself.
The lawsuit also accuses jail employees of failing to see red flags regarding Penner's past and not providing adequate mental health services or placing him in a suicide-proof cell, and that the jail did not investigate death threats that they knew he had received from other inmates.
It also states that a previous restraining order filed by Gomez claims Penner had attempted suicide before.
In a 2018 interview with NewsChannel 21, the jail's Corrections Capt. Michael Schults said Penner was not on suicide watch or secluded from other inmates.
“We did keep an eye on him,” Schults said. "If somebody is in our custody that truly wants to self-harm, there's a whole bunch of different ways to do it.”
In a statement provided to NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday, the sheriff’s office public information officer, Sgt. William Bailey, said, “The Sheriff’s Office, and the individually named deputies and staff, deny all of the claims brought by Ms. Thomas and intend to vigorously defend against them.”
In its response, also filed in February, the county denied most of the allegations, but acknowledged that Thomas had told jail staff on or about Feb. 25, 2018 that her son had attempted suicide in November 2017.
"Bryan Penner was at fault for his own injuries and death," the response by county legal counsel John Laherty stated, asking the court to dismiss the claim.