Maricopa County settled yet another wrongful death suit this week, paying almost $1 million to the family of Felix Torres, who died an excruciatingly painful death from ulcer-related complications in a county jail while detention officers refused to help him.
Michael Lacey wrote about the case last month for New Times, telling the story of a 47-year-old man who was stopped for a traffic violation on September 30, 2013 while riding his bike in Mesa, and ended up dead a week later.
After officers cited Torres for biking in the wrong direction, they discovered there was a warrant out his arrest for driving without a license and failing to appear in court, and found drug paraphernalia coated in meth residue in his possession. He was arrested and booked in jail.
Three days later he was taken to the County Medical Center for severe stomach pains. Doctors decided he had a hernia, and even though Torres told the doctors he had a history of ulcer problems, they gave him an injection of Toradol—a drug that’s specifically not recommended for people with ulcers.
Unsurprisingly, Torres was in worse condition by the time he was brought back to jail, and spent the next few days crying, writhing in pain, and begging guards to help him or take him to the hospital. As Lacey writes, one witness remembers that “on the night Felix died, he asked for help from multiple detention officers. I distinctly remember Felix telling the detention officers that he was dying . . . One detention officer . . . cussed at Felix saying, ‘[You're] fucking faking it.’”
Another witness says “Felix was banging on his cell door and asking for help . . . A detention officer came by and said something like, ' I'm not going to deal with this. You're bullshitting . . . Stop that racket and go to sleep.’”
At 11 p.m. on October 5, Torres was discovered dead in his jail cell.
Torres’ mother, Guadalupe Torres, filed a $3.5 million wrongful death claim against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other county agencies in April 2014, and the county just reached a settlement this week.
The Torres family will receive $950,000. (Michael Manning, Guadalupe's lawyer, could not be reached for comment on the settlement process.)
Since 1992, when Arpaio first became sheriff, Maricopa County has paid tens of millions of dollars in wrongful death settlements or other claims—not to mention the millions being spent to fight Melendres, the racial profiling suit brought by the ACLU—meaning that this latest settlement represents just one more taxpayer subsidized payout for the brutal and deadly conditions of the MCSO jail system.
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