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Wrongful Death Suit Against LA County Jail Settles For $750,000
Ramon Gavira was arrested on July 6, 2002 for driving under the influence and jailed. He was placed in the LA Main Central Jail on July 8. Both in intake and Main Jail exams he exhibited no injuries. But on July 11, two hours before his scheduled release, Gavira was found dead in his cell, purportedly from suicide with a bed sheet. However, the autopsy revealed blunt force traumatic injuries including six broken ribs, two broken clavicles and numerous bruises and contusions to his torso/abdomen ranging in occurrence from 12 to 72 hours prior to his death. He also had defensive wounds on his hands, arms and fingers. Worse yet, his fatal neck injuries (which included a broken bone) were consistent with manual strangulation, not hanging.
At intake medical screening, Gavira was found to be depressed, diabetic and suffering from alcohol withdrawal. A social worker recommended he be housed in a ?pill module? where he could be treated. But the pill module was closed. Gavira was instead housed singly in the disciplinary module, where he never received his medications. He appeared scared and confused.
Neighboring prisoners reported hearing him crying at night, talking about going home. Two of the prisoners reported observing female guard Angel Manriquez mocking and abusing Gavira. Specifically, on the morning of July 11 while supervising the ?court line,? Manriquez, who was trained as a boxer, grabbed the handcuffed Gavira?s testicles and knocked him to the floor, all the while laughing at him and taunting him as having ?no huevos? (no balls).
Gavira had a history of depression and prior suicide attempts, but he was given no treatment for this known condition. Instead, it was alleged in the suit that he was repeatedly beaten by jail guards in his single-occupancy cell, causing his severe trauma. The bed sheet was ?wrapped tightly? around his neck, which was inconsistent with self-inflicted strangulation, causing the coroner to conclude that Cavira was manually strangled. Nonetheless, a 10 month sheriff?s internal investigation into the death decided it was simply suicide.
Gavira?s survivors sued, complaining of an investigation flawed by perpetuation of a ?code-of-silence? policy among the guards. The case was five days into trial when the Board of Supervisors was given a confidential report by the Sheriff?s Office of Independent Review that sharply criticized the earlier investigation into Gavira?s death. Upon reviewing this report, the county quickly settled for $750,000. Gavira?s survivors were represented by attorneys R. Samuel Paz, Sonia Mercado and Antonio Rodriguez. See: Gavira v. County of Los Angeles, LA Superior Court Case No. BC 295053.
Additional source: Los Angeles Times.
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Related legal case
Gavira v. County of Los Angeles
|Cite||LA Superior Court Case No. BC 295053|
|Level||State Trial Court|