The Phoenix City Council is poised to spend up to $2 million to settle a lawsuit with a woman who says city employees failed to efficiently provide services that could have prevented her husband from bleeding to death after a stabbing.
Katrina Smith, who was home during the violent 2018 home invasion, filed the lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court in March against the city, the Phoenix Police Department, the alleged assailant, and various county mental health service providers.
According to the complaint, Curtis Bagley entered the home of Smith and her husband, Joshua Fitzpatrick, on Willetta Street in central Phoenix's Roosevelt Historic District during the early morning hours of March 31, 2018.
Smith hid under the bed and called 911 while Fitzpatrick fought with the intruder, the lawsuit says. Bagley burglarized the couple’s home and stabbed Fitzpatrick multiple times.
While police responded to the scene of the crime within 90 seconds and were able to arrest Bagley in front of the home, emergency responders didn’t check on the residents inside until more than 20 minutes after the initial 911 call was made, the lawsuit says.
Fitzpatrick, who was 36, was a former city of Phoenix Human Resources department employee and private pilot who landed his "dream job" as a system engineer at Honeywell in 2016. He bled to death just inside the front door.
The lawsuit refers to body camera footage that shows officers “blowing bubbles with their chewing gum” and “casually talking with Bagley” during the period that Fitzpatrick was awaiting lifesaving services.
“Officers can be heard joking with Mr. Bagley that he’s ‘sexy’ as multiple units are brought to the scene to allow for identification,” the lawsuit says. “Joshua is bleeding to death in the entryway and Katrina remains hiding in terror under her bed. There have been zero efforts to contact the couple.”
Smith argues in the lawsuit that the negligence of the city of Phoenix and its police department caused her “extreme emotional distress,” which has led to “physical injury and illness.”
The lawsuit also includes county mental health providers as defendants, claiming they were negligent in caring for Bagley, who has serious mental illness.
According to the complaint, Bagley was released from prison just two weeks before the stabbing occurred, and during that time, he moved through several social-service safety nets that didn’t properly care for him.
When he was initially released, an Assertive Community Treatment team from the behavioral health nonprofit Southwest Network was supposed to provide services for him, the complaint says, but didn’t keep track of Bagley after the first meeting.
When his behavior led to his referral to several other local community mental health service providers over the next two weeks, none connected him back to his initial treatment team, according to the lawsuit. Though he asked to stay at the crisis center UPC/ConnectionsAZ, he “was discharged with little more than a bus pass” on March 26, the lawsuit says.
Though he displayed hallucinations and was “agitated, disturbed, impulsive and delusional,” the lawsuit says, “it was determined that he was not a danger to himself or others.”
If the City Council approves a settlement on November 20, the city and its police department will no longer be involved in a trial now scheduled for 2021. It was unclear whether the other defendants plan to settle claims. Attorneys for the county didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
An attorney for Smith didn't respond to multiple requests for comment, while attorneys for the city said their policy is not to comment on pending litigation.
The Phoenix Police Department didn’t respond to questions about whether it plans to take other action to improve training in the face of this case.
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Bagley's attorney, Holly Gieszl, called the case "tragic" in an interview with Phoenix New Times.
"This was a failure of the 911 response, and it was a failure of mental health, which is a state and county response," Gieszl said. "The mental health care that Curtis Bagley got was dismal and we should all be ashamed of it.”
Smith commented on the lawsuit in a statement originally reported by the Arizona Republic in September.
“Our goal is to ensure that no other family ever has to suffer in the way ours has suffered,” she said. “Both Maricopa County and the Phoenix Police failed on numerous occasions, and if either agency acted appropriately, Josh would still be alive.”