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$100,000 Settlement for Preventable Suicide in Virginia Department of Corrections

by Kevin W. Bliss

Dai’yaan Qamar Longmire, a 19-year-old from Virginia Beach, was serving a four-year sentence at the Indian Creek Correctional Center (ICCC) in 2014 when he committed suicide in his cell using a sheet tied to a ceiling vent.

Represented by Michael Hill, Longmire’s mother filed a wrongful death claim against ICCC and two prison guards, Lakeia Smallwood and Chance McCoole. The suit alleged the guards ignored Longmire’s threat to harm himself and did nothing to prevent his death. 

Longmire, who had a history of mental illness and was on prescribed medication, had pleaded guilty to burglary, grand larceny, assault on a law enforcement officer and other charges. He was sent to ICCC after the judge agreed that he qualified for a special rehabilitation program. Longmire was placed in segregation for an alleged assault on Smallwood; she said he shoved backward on his cell door as she was closing it, hitting her wrist.

The suit claimed that while in segregation Longmire exhibited several signs of potential self-harm. Joseph Carroll, a prisoner in a cell near Longmire, testified that he “would go from silence to loud outbursts of anger and crying and screaming.” Carroll said Longmire made both Smallwood and McCoole well aware of his intention to hurt himself. Jerome Thompson and Dean Stilke, two “cadre inmates” working in the segregation unit, also testified; they said McCoole refused to help Longmire and went so far as to order them to leave the area. 

The lawsuit also alleged that Longmire’s medication was discontinued once he was incarcerated. Smallwood and McCoole testified they did not know Longmire had mental health problems, and that he never expressed any indication of harming himself. Yet Smallwood also said she made several rounds on the day of Longmire’s death – a claim that was refuted by security cameras in the unit. The cameras also substantiated some of the allegations against McCoole made by Thompson and Stilke.

Longmire died on November 8, 2014, and just over three years later the district court denied a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants, finding the claims against the Virginia DOC, Smallwood and McCoole should go to trial. Instead, Longmire’s mother accepted a pretrial settlement of $100,000 in May 2018; she received $38,265.81, with the remainder going to attorneys’ fees and costs.

Her lawsuit followed on the heels of several others that have alleged poor mental health and medical care as well as deliberate indifference at Virginia state prisons. 

“They have to provide care for both medical and mental health issues, but what we are seeing ... is a systemic failure,” stated attorney Michael Hill. See: Longmire v. McCoole, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Vir.), Case No. 2:16-cv-00653-HCM-DEM. 


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Related legal case

Longmire v. McCoole