The family of a man who died while in custody at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his constitutional rights were violated by sheriff’s deputies and medical staff who did not treat him while he was in medical distress.
Kevil Wingo’s family filed the civil suit last week in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against Wellstar Health System, six nurses and three Cobb County Sheriff’s Office deputies. Wingo was pronounced dead Sept. 29, 2019, after he was found unresponsive in an isolation cell at the jail. An autopsy concluded the 36-year-old died from complications of a perforated gastric ulcer.
Timothy Gardner, the attorney representing Wingo’s family, said the lawsuit seeks financial compensation and for a jury to hold the defendants accountable.
“They have been waiting for over a year to get a full understanding as to what happened to Mr. Wingo," Gardner said of the family.
The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for comment.
Wellstar, which until earlier this year was the health care provider at the Cobb County jail, told the AJC that it was aware of the lawsuit filed by Wingo’s family against the company and the six nurses.
The company said while it has not been formally served or reviewed the complaint, it believes the “appropriate place for Wellstar to respond is in court and we will do so fully at the appropriate time."
The company previously told the AJC that the team members working at the detention center on the night of Wingo’s death were no longer employed by Wellstar, but did not specify whether they were fired as a result of the incident.
The lawsuit charges that the defendants violated Wingo’s rights under the Eighth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution because the nurses and the deputies failed to provide medical care to Wingo. It also alleges the deputies violated Cobb County Sheriff’s Office policy by not properly monitoring Wingo after he was placed in a padded isolation cell.
Wingo was arrested and booked into the Cobb County jail Sept. 24 on a possession of cocaine charge. For the next three days, Wingo was housed in the jail’s infirmary so he could undergo a drug detox. According to the lawsuit, Wingo on Sept. 28 began experiencing abdominal pain, sweating and vomiting.
Wingo was moved to another location in the jail where he continued experiencing those symptoms. He requested a trip to the infirmary and told a deputy he was “having ulcer pain, that he wasn’t going to make it and that he wanted to go to the hospital,” the lawsuit says.
Wingo was taken to the infirmary in a wheelchair and asked if he could go to the hospital, but the nurses and deputies “would not call for an ambulance and did not take him to the hospital,” the complaint adds. One nurse also entered a note in Wingo’s medical records that a doctor admitted him to the infirmary. According to the lawsuit, a doctor was never called or involved in Wingo’s medical care.
Wingo spent several hours in his infirmary cell, where he was observed falling on the ground at least three times and appeared to be in “physical distress," according to the complaint. He was later was moved to a padded isolation cell around 7:50 a.m. Sept. 29 where he was found unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital.
Wingo is one of several detainees who have died in-custody at the Cobb Detention Center since December 2018: Reginald Wilson, Jessie Myles, Bradley Emory, William Kocour, Steven Davis, Christopher Hart, Stephanie Nicole White and an unnamed woman whose death remains under investigation.
The deaths have sparked criticism from residents and families, local activists and civil rights organizations, which are calling on Sheriff Neil Warren to address their concerns about medical care for inmates and jail staffing levels.