Arrested Texas Jail Nurse Refused to Test Blood Sugar of Prisoner Who Died
by Matt Clarke
Texas licensed vocational nurse Brittany Johnson was arrested on June 28, 2016 and charged with misdemeanor negligent homicide in the death of female prisoner Morgan Angerbauer, 20, who died of diabetic ketoacidosis at the Bi-State Detention Facility in Texarkana, Texas. Johnson pleaded not guilty at a pre-trial hearing in February 2017; she was freed on bond and a trial date was initially set for May 15, 2017, though no outcome has been reported.
Meanwhile, a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Angerbauer’s estate remains pending against LaSalle Corrections, the private company that manages the jail, as well as various LaSalle employees, including Johnson.
Angerbauer was arrested in Arkansas on a probation violation. She advised staff that she was a Type I diabetic when she was booked into the Bi-State jail, and was placed in a medical observation cell. Her blood sugar (glucose) level was so high that it was off the testing device’s scale. She was given 15 units of insulin.
The next day, her blood sugar tested at 487 mg/dl, which is considered dangerously high, and she received another 15 units of insulin. Normal blood sugar levels are between 70 and 110 mg/dl. An hour later, her test results were 178 mg/dl and she was not given insulin.
The following day Angerbauer’s glucose tested high again, twice, and she received insulin both times before a third test was within the normal range. No follow up was done to check the accuracy of the final reading.
Six hours later Angerbauer refused, or was not awake for, another test. An hour later she asked Johnson, who was passing by her cell, to test her blood sugar because she felt it was too high. Johnson refused, saying it was not up to Angerbauer to determine when the testing would be done. Over the next several hours, Angerbauer pounded on the door of her cell asking to have her blood sugar tested. Johnson declined to do so.
Subsequently, trustees noticed Angerbauer unconscious on the cell floor and summoned help. Johnson attempted a glucose test, but it reported “E-3” – extremely high and out of the device’s range. Rather than giving Angerbauer insulin, however, Johnson gave her glucose. Angerbauer died soon thereafter. Only then did Johnson begin CPR and have EMTs summoned. The state crime lab test showed Angerbauer’s blood sugar level was 813 mg/dl at the time of her death.
Johnson fabricated a story for LaSalle’s internal investigation and the company signed off on it. The events surrounding Angerbauer’s death were recorded on video security cameras, and an investigation by the Texarkana police led to Johnson’s arrest for negligent homicide.
Little Rock attorney Matthew D. Campbell represents Angerbauer’s mother, Jennifer Houser, as administrator of her daughter’s estate in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on September 9, 2016. The suit alleges constitutional violations as well as pendent state torts. See: Houser v. LaSalle Management Company, LLC, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Texas), Case No. 5:16-cv-00129-RWS.
LaSalle Corrections filed responses in the case in January 2017 on behalf of the corporation and its executives and employees, denying any wrongdoing. LaSalle is not representing Johnson.
A motion to dismiss was filed on January 12, 2017 on LaSalle’s behalf by Texarkana attorney Paul Miller, claiming the defendants are protected from liability based on various theories of immunity and alleging that Angerbauer’s own conduct led to her death.
LaSalle argued that Angerbauer used methamphetamine and her diabetes complicated her withdrawal from the drug. The defendants also alleged that Angerbauer refused to provide jail staff with information necessary to determine what medical care she needed, though that claim was directly disputed by Houser’s complaint. Therefore, the district court ruled the factual dispute would need to be resolved at trial, and the motion to dismiss was denied.
Jennifer Houser said she just wants justice for her daughter.
“We have peace with ourselves with her [Johnson]. No hatred. We forgave her, but she has to live with what she did to Morgan everyday,” Houser stated.
Sources: Texarkana Gazette, www.photographyisnotacrime.com, www.katv.com, www.ktbs.com