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A Northern California man died in jail after he fell unresponsive and languished virtually unattended in his cell for at least three days, the prisoner’s loved ones said in a federal lawsuit.
Maurice Monk, 45, was the victim of “utterly callous and indifferent” lack of action by law enforcement and medical staff members at Santa Rita Jail, according to the family’s lawsuit, which was amended Tuesday and cites more than 150 videos taken from Alameda County sheriff’s deputies’ body cameras.
Monk was declared dead on Nov. 15, 2021. His family’s civil action — filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco — names as defendants Alameda County, which operates the jail; Wellpath Community Care, the private contractors who provide health care to prisoners at the jail; and various individual deputies and employees of the facility.
Monk’s death certificate listed hypertensive cardiovascular disease as the cause of death, but his family disputes that.
“That’s not what killed Maurice Monk. It was the failure of the jail’s nurses and guards to ensure Maurice received his medications to treat his mental illness and chronic high blood pressure,” family attorney Adanté Pointer said in a statement.
“They literally did nothing more than stare at him and throw food and medications into his cell like he was an animal in a pen at the zoo. Despite the obvious crisis, not a single guard or nurse thought enough about Mr. Monk to call for help.”
Monk was first booked into jail after an incident on a public bus in Oakland on Oct. 11, 2021, when he suffered a “mental health crisis,” refused to put on a mask and argued with the driver, his family said.
Bail was set at $2,500, but Monk’s family said they couldn’t afford it, so he had to sit in custody. Monk was found dead in his cell on Nov. 15, 2021, but “it is likely that Mr. Monk was dead well before this,” the lawsuit says.
Jailers and medical staff members visited Monk’s cell several times a day on Nov. 12, 13 and 14, and each time he was facedown in the bed, naked from the waist down and not responding to any verbal commands, the lawsuit says.
Other allegations from the lawsuit include:
Deputies didn’t take decisive action until Nov. 15, when they went into the cell, touched his body and tried to get a pulse — but by that point “Monk was unresponsive and was ‘stiff,'” the lawsuit says.
Jailers dragged Monk off his bed and performed CPR, but he remained unresponsive and was declared dead.
Representatives of Santa Rita Jail, Alameda County and Wellpath, based in Nashville, Tennessee, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit doesn’t list a dollar amount for damages sought by plaintiffs, the estate or Maurice Monk, as represented by his daughter and son.
David K. Li is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.
Diana Dasrath is entertainment producer and senior reporter for NBC News covering all platforms.
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