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$1.9 Million Paid by L.A. County for Detainee’s Suicide

by Chuck Sharman

On August 12, 2022, the federal courtfor the Central District of California approved a settlement for the minor children of a jail detainee who committed suicide less than nine hours after he was arrested for auto burglary – despite the refusal of the car’s owner to press charges – and thrown in a holding cell at a Los Angeles County lockup.

Rufino Paredes fatally hanged himself with a bedsheet at the Industry Sheriff’s Station on November 30, 2018. Deputies responding to a call about the attempted automobile burglary the night before found Paredes “was acting erratically and was unstable, possibly caused by the ingestion of and being under the influence of narcotics,” according to the complaint later filed on his behalf.

The car’s owner declined to press charges. But deputies decided to arrest Paredes anyway. Family members on the scene “informed Deputies that [Paredes] required medical attention and asked Deputies take him to the hospital,” the complaint continued. Instead, they took him to the jail.

During intake, he admitted having a drug problem. When asked if he were under the influence, he didn’t respond. The deputy conducting the screening wrote “no.” But no one investigated his condition further. Arresting deputies had failed to relay his family’s warnings to jail personnel. Paredes was not given a medical evaluation, either. He was left unmonitored in a holding cell, where he took a sheet from the bed and twisted it around his neck and the doorframe until he suffocated to death.

With the aid of attorney Stewart J. Powell of Yacoubian & Powell LLP in Los Angeles, Paredes’ mother, Taurina Marquez, filed suit in the Court on behalf of her son’s estate and his five minor children, identified as D.P.#1, D.P.#2, D.P.#3, K.P. and H.P. Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiffs accused the county and its Sheriff’s Department personnel of deliberate indifference to Paredes’ serious medical need, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due-process rights as a pretrial detainee.

The parties then proceeded to reach their settlement agreement, which included structured payments totaling $210,687.17 to each child through his guardian ad litem. The remaining 33% of the settlement amount was paid to the estate’s attorney for his costs and fees. See: Est. of Paredes v. Los Angeles Cty., USDC (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:21-cv-02644.

A “Summary Corrective Action Plan” submitted to County Commissioners along with the request for approval of the settlement amount listed a “root cause” of Paredes’ death as the arresting deputies’ “failure to identify the medical necessity to take a possibly impaired suspect for a medical evaluation after being told by his family members he had a drug problem.”

The intake deputy was also faulted for answering “no” to questions that Paredes simply failed to respond to. Moreover, the cell door bars he used to twist the bedsheet were armed with scanners, but those weren’t working due to Wi-Fi problems.

This cascade of errors poured out a pile of money – nearly $47.6 million the county paid out for Sheriff’s deputies’ misconduct in Paredes’ death and those of four others, according to a tally by LAist. The county paid another $900,000 in legal fees for the five cases.

Additional sources: LAist, Los Angeles Times

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