Monday, July 22, 2019 Elyria 72°

Cops and Courts

Family sues Elyria police over suicide


ELYRIA — The family of a man who died in a holding cell at the Elyria police station in 2017 sued the city and several Elyria police officers, saying the negligence of the department led to the man’s death.

James Fitzpatrick hanged himself by securing his shoelaces to a vent in the holding cell he was in March 18, 2017. The 47-year-old Elyria man was arrested after police conducted a search of his Purdue Avenue home and found several hundred video and still images of adolescents and toddlers engaged in sexual activity with adults, police have said.

Fitzpatrick was taken to the Elyria police station and placed in the holding cell and was being checked on every 30 minutes, police have said. A few hours later, they found him dead during one of those checks.

The lawsuit filed by the estate of Fitzpatrick in federal court Tuesday alleges that the officers “failed to perform a proper screening, evaluation and medical intake of Mr. Fitzpatrick to evaluate and access his medical and health status and the level of supervision required to ensure his safety while in custody prior to placing him in a holding cell at the Elyria police station.” The suit also said officers knew Fitzpatrick’s mental state placed him at a high risk level for suicide.

Fitzpatrick sustained a traumatic brain injury as a child and, as a result, he was functionally disabled and was at risk of death from any strike to his head, the suit said. Police were aware of Fitzpatrick’s condition while at his home, and while he was restrained inside a police car outside his residence, he continuously struck his head against the vehicle and with his handcuffs.

The suit also alleges the officers “jointly agreed and/or conspired with one another, and others, to complete false, misleading and incomplete official reports and to give a false, misleading and incomplete version of the events to certain superiors and the public in order to cover up their own misconduct” in connection to Fitzpatrick’s death.

An internal investigation into whether officers should be disciplined was conducted. An investigation into Fitzpatrick’s death also was conducted by the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office.

None of the officers were charged. The lawsuit said none of the officers have been disciplined in any way in connection with the incident.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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