The wife of a man who died in jail last month has filed three “wrongful death” claims - each for $1 million - against the city, county and coroner.
The claims, filed Thursday in Spokane County Superior Court, say Mario Lozada’s constitutional rights were violated when police arrested and physically restrained him Sept. 3.
Jailers continued to restrain Lozada, “which ultimately … led to the death of my husband,” according to the claim signed by Tina Lozada.
The 28-year-old man died in a jail cell less than 10 minutes after he was put in a nylon belt that strapped his arms to his side. Before being arrested, Lozada fought with Spokane police officers when they showed up at the apartment building where he was partying.
Lozada was high on methamphetamine, but the doctor who performed the autopsy ruled out a drug overdose and concluded Lozada died because of “restraint asphyxiation.”
Forensic pathologist George Lindholm said the syndrome can be blamed in the deaths of some suspects who are intoxicated or high on drugs and then struggle violently - as Lozada did - with arresting officers.
County Coroner Dexter Amend, however, filed a death certificate last week that stated Lozada died from a methamphetamine overdose.
Attorney Carl Maxey, who represents Tina Lozada, said he filed a third claim against the county for Amend’s disregard of fact. It demands that the certificate be changed to reflect Lindholm’s conclusion of the cause of death and that the county pay $1 million for Amend’s “willful misuse of office.”
The claim also accuses Amend of being prejudiced against Lozada because he was known to be HIV positive. Recently, Amend made headlines when he publicly declared homosexuality “abnormal” and “sick.” He blamed the spread of AIDS on gays alone.
“In light of Dexter Amend’s well known and publicized hatred for persons suffering from (HIV), Dexter Amend’s actions can only be seen as malicious, biased, arbitrary, capricious and lacking in impartiality,” the claim states.
Efforts to reach city and county officials were unsuccessful late Thursday. Police and sheriff’s department officials, however, have maintained that the restraints used on Lozada were applied appropriately and correctly.
Maxey said he will request both departments re-examine training techniques in light of Lozada’s death.
If the claims are rejected, Tina Lozada can file lawsuits against the city and county.