EMT sued by family of inmate who died in jail

EMT Sherry Baca is being sued for failure to provide adequate medical care in the 2016 death of Joseph Jaramillo

By Anthony A. Mestas
The Pueblo Chieftain

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. — Two Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a medical technician are being sued by the brother of an inmate who alleges he was beaten after extending his middle finger at one of the deputies.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver, claims that the technician ignored signs that Joseph Jaramillo, 41, was dying of a head injury.

A lawsuit claims EMT Sherry Baca ignored signs that inmate Joseph Jaramillo was dying of a head injury. (Photo/Pueblo County Sheriff's Office)
A lawsuit claims EMT Sherry Baca ignored signs that inmate Joseph Jaramillo was dying of a head injury. (Photo/Pueblo County Sheriff's Office)

Rodney Jaramillo is accusing deputies Christian Crain and Nicholas Cardinal of excessive force that resulted in the death of his brother. He is seeking unspecified monetary damages including a punitive award.

The suit accuses Sherry Baca, the technician, of negligence because she failed to treat Jaramillo after he was complaining about his throbbing head pain after the alleged incident.

The Pueblo sheriff’s office said then that the cause and manner of the death of Jaramillo was released on June 2 as part of a forensic autopsy report conducted after Jaramillo’s death.

Jaramillo was incarcerated at the Pueblo County jail on Feb. 24 when he suffered a medical emergency. The sheriff’s office reported that he was treated in the jail and transferred immediately to Parkview Medical Center, according to the sheriff’s office.

The article stated that while he was at Parkview, a judge granted Jaramillo a personal recognizance bond and released him from the custody of Pueblo County. He was later transferred to a Denverarea hospital where he died.

“At the time of Jaramillo’s death, inaccurate and speculative information was circulated through unedited social media venues as to the facts and circumstances surrounding his death,” the sheriff’s office wrote in the June news release.

The sheriff’s office said its officials have maintained contact with the Jaramillo family’s legal representative to keep them apprised of the ongoing investigation.

The sheriff’s office said that a complete copy of the investigative effort was made available to the Jaramillo family’s legal representative. The sheriff said this included a review of videos as well as deputy and medical officer reports.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Jaramillo family,” Sheriff Kirk Taylor said in a June statement. The sheriff’s office said it had closed the investigation based on the results from the medical examiner.

Late Wednesday, Taylor sent out a press release saying, “Normally, this office does not comment on pending litigation. However, due to the nature of the allegations in an article on The Denver Post website today, I feel it is necessary to respond.”

Taylor described the same press releases The Chieftain obtained about the issue. “I hope that if or when this case is presented to a fact-finder, the ‘actual facts’ will be reported to the public in a responsible manner,” Taylor said.

“At this time, no interviews or media requests will be granted until the completion of any litigation.”

The complaint states that Crain and Cardinal caused head and neck injuries during an altercation on Feb. 23, 2016, that resulted in severe brain hemorrhaging and swelling.

The suit alleges Jaramillo asked for treatment for 12 hours to no avail. Jaramillo began banging on his cell window screaming for help in front of the two deputies in question before collapsing of respiratory failure. The complaint said he never regained consciousness.

The alleged altercation began after Jaramillo, who was on his way to take a shower in custody at the Pueblo County jail, was ordered by Crain to return to his bunk. Court documents state that Jaramillo flipped Crain off and proceeded to undress for his shower. As he stepped into the shower, Crain again yelled at him to return to his bunk. Jaramillo began putting his clothes back on in an effort to comply.

The suit claims that Crain and Cardinal stormed the shower area where Jaramillo was dressed and returning to his bunk. The deputies allegedly grabbed Jaramillo and took him down. During the takedown, Jaramillo hit his head on the floor as well as a nearby stall. He reportedly lost consciousness.

According to court documents, Crain and Cardinal continued to hit Jaramillo while he was on the floor. Jaramillo was placed in handcuffs and escorted out of the dorm to the facility’s attorney room, where there are no cameras, according to the complaint. The complaint said that four hours later, Jaramillo asked for medical care because of the pain to his head that affected his vision. A nurse gave him ibuprofen and left. Twelve hours later, Jaramillo continued to complain and Baca responded.

The complaint says that Baca did a “cursory and generally indifferent assessment.” Baca confirmed that Jaramillo could not touch his chin to his chest, as required by “head protocol” he had been placed on. Jaramillo said his pain was throbbing and “not similar to any headache ever had before”, the lawsuit claims.

“Defendant Baca deliberately ignored these various clear indications of medical emergency involving head injury, gave Mr. Jaramillo more ibuprofen and left,” the complaint said.

The complaint stated that Jaramillo “continued complaining to anyone who would listen, throughout the next six hours.”

He told his cellmate that he worried he was dying and that he could not see. He continued to request medical support but was ignored, the complaint says.

At 4:45 a.m. Feb. 24, he began banging his cell window for help. The complaint says Baca and Crain did nothing to help. Ten minutes later, Jaramillo collapsed in his cell. Baca and Crain did not respond, the lawsuit claims. Ten minutes after that Baca entered the cell “to check his blood sugar” and Jaramillo was unconscious, suffering from respiratory failure and he was nonresponsive.

On Feb. 29, 2016, Jaramillo was removed from life support and died of a subdural hematoma and associated extensive untreated brain bleeding and swelling.

The suit claims that Pueblo County “embarked on an extensive cover-up operation of the actions of their employees’ excessive force and deliberate medical indifference.”

Copyright 2018 The Pueblo Chieftain

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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