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Florida County Pays $300,000 to Settle Jail Suicide Suit

On October 17, 2023, the estate of a detainee who committed suicide in Florida’s Escambia County Jail accepted $300,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit. Lukas MacKenzie Snelson, 24, was arrested on December 30, 2021, for second degree homicide of his grandmother, Fran Fournier, 75, grand theft of her automobile, and resisting arrest. As he was being booked into the jail, Snelson made suicidal comments. He was given a mental health evaluation and placed under observation in the infirmary for three days, then transferred to a cell.

The next day, Snelson began a suicide attempt by hanging himself from the cell bars with a bedsheet. At the time, guard trainee Gregory Morgan Oglesby and fellow guard Spiros Leonida Mumtzis were working in Snelson’s housing area. They were responsible for making periodic cell checks to determine detainees’ welfare. Despite multiple “checks” that they recorded, though, Snelson was left hanging for more than 40 minutes before he was found and released from his bedsheet ligature. When Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived about 15 minutes later, Snelson’s heart had stopped beating. EMS was able to resuscitate him for transport to a hospital, but he died two days later when he was taken off life support.

An investigation by Internal Affairs at the jail determined that Mumtzis and Oglesby “clearly neglected their duties and failed to observe an actual living person during the alleged visual checks.” They were found guilty of conduct prohibited by jail policies and procedures. They may also have not taken Snelson’s suicide attempt seriously. Complicating their inadequate visual checks was a broken light in Snelson’s cell, which was recorded in a maintenance work order on the jail’s computer. The guards further failed to employ a flashlight to see into the cell.

Aided by Pensacola attorneys Ryan M. Cardoso and Gabriel G. Mueller of Cardoso Law, estate curator Charles P. Hoskin filed claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the County, Mumtzis and Oglesby, accusing them of deliberate indifference to Snelson’s serious medical needs, failure to protect him, inadequate training and negligence. The $300,000 settlement, which includes costs and fees for the attorneys, will be paid by the County’s insurance carrier, less an $86,241.17 deductible. Snelson, who was unmarried, is survived by a two-year-old son and his mother. See: Hoskin v. Escambia Cty., USDC (N.D. Fla.) Case No. 3:22-cv-25151-TKW-ZCB


Additional source: North Escambia

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Related legal case

Hoskin v. Escambia Cty.