Last October, when we first reported about Tyler Tabor's heroin-withdrawal death in Adams County jail, we wrote that while no lawsuit had been filed in the case, "one will arrive soon."
That day has come. At 2:30 p.m., Tabor's family will appear at a press conference announcing a suit they've filed against Adams County and Corizon, the private company contracted to provide health-care services to the detention center, as well as numerous individuals, Adams County Sheriff Michael McIntosh among them.
The suit is accompanied by a series of videos by TriCuzz Productions; see them below. The first details the tragedy with assistance from jail footage shot over the three long days it took Tabor to die, while the second and third take on the topics of "prison profiteering" and punishment versus treatment as it relates to addiction.
This last subject is key when it comes to Tabor's case, according to attorney David Lane, who's representing his family, including Dustin, the young son Tyler left behind.
"His bond was only $300," Lane points out. "But the family decided, 'Let's get him detoxed, and then we'll put him in a rehab program,' thinking jail would be a safe place to detox. But it wasn't."
This death was easily preventable, Lane maintains.
"Tyler was a welder who became addicted to opioid pain killers when he hurt his back on the job, and that morphed into a heroin addiction," he notes. "He told the jail he was suffering from withdrawal, and he begged them for an IV, which would have saved his life. But they completely ignored him, and it killed him."
According to the lawsuit, Tabor was busted on May 14, 2015, by a police officer in Thornton "on two outstanding warrants in Larimer County for failure to comply with probation conditions in connection with a misdemeanor harassment conviction and failure to appear on a misdemeanor charge of driving under restraint."
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From the outset of Tabor's incarceration, Lane allows, his symptoms were evident — but he wasn't taken to see a doctor. Instead, nurses administered what he calls "the easy fix: Gatorade, since one of the serious problems with withdrawal is dehydration. But that only works if you can keep it down, and Tyler couldn't. And anyone could see what was happening to him. We have videos of Tyler falling down in his cell, crawling to the emergency button and pushing it. And still they didn't put him on an IV." Instead, he was provided more Gatorade and medication that included Clonidine, Hydroxyzine, Acetaminophen, Pepto-Bismol, Loperamide and Promethazine.
On May 16, the lawsuit states, Tabor's blood pressure went from 110/71 at 2:29 a.m. to 83/60 at 11:38 p.m., and another two-liter serving of Gatorade didn't improve the situation. At 2:20 a.m. the following morning, he was taken to a treatment area in a wheelchair because he was too weak to walk. But he was subsequently returned to his cell, where his physical deterioration continued.
Here's an excerpt from the suit featuring two named defendants, Nurse Cheryl Groothuis and Adams County Deputy Michael Brown.
At approximately 4:10 a.m. on May 17, 2015, Nurse Groothuis and Deputy Brown visited Tyler’s cell to administer medication. Tyler had difficulty standing and fell multiple times in Nurse Groothuis’s and Deputy Brown’s presence. Nurse Groothuis handed Tyler his medications, but again his hands were so cramped that he could not hold them. As Tyler let go of the wall he was holding on to for balance to retrieve the dropped medication, he fell to the floor. Nurse Groothuis attempted to help Tyler to his feet, but was unable to do so. Deputy Brown entered the cell and helped Tyler into his bed, where Nurse Groothuis gave Tyler the medication he had dropped. Nurse Groothuis did not provide any further treatment or check Tyler’s vitals. She left the cell.
Forty minutes later, Tabor pressed the emergency button again, but the call was "essentially ignored," the lawsuit claims. Then, at 5:20 a.m., he crawled to the cell door, vomited on the floor and passed out while lying on his back.
He was discovered five minutes later by another defendant, Deputy Cory Engel. Tabor is said to have "had a gray color to him and was having difficulty breathing. Deputy Engel attempted to speak to Tyler and kicked Tyler a few times, but Tyler could only moan in response."
That finally prompted a call for emergency medical services, but it was too late. Tabor was pronounced dead at 6 a.m.
The following October, Dave Young, district attorney for the 17th Judicial District, announced in a letter to Sheriff McIntosh that he hadn't found any criminal wrongdoing in the Tabor case
Even so, Lane sees the series of events that led to Tabor's death as a condemnation of Corizon, "which has been sued repeatedly. These private health-care companies are so profit-driven, and they view their client base as high-volume, low-asset clients. To save twenty bucks, they're willing to risk people's lives."
As regular readers know, Tabor's death is hardly an isolated incident. In 2014, the family of Christopher Lopez, whose jailers laughed and joked as he slowly died, was awarded $3 million in a lawsuit settlement.
And Lane is also representing the family of Jennifer Lobato, who died in March 2015 from the effects of heroin-withdrawal dehydration in Jefferson County jail. That lawsuit quotes one of Lobato's jailers as telling fellow inmates trying to alert authorities about her dire condition to "shut the fuck up."
In regard to Tabor, Lane says his loved ones remain shattered by what happened to him. "Oh, my God, they're the most grief-stricken family I've ever met."
The family and Lane are featured in the first video below, which also includes jailhouse footage of Tabor's final, agonizing hours. Two more videos and the Tabor complaint follow.
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