The Spokane County coroner and the doctor who performs autopsies for him disagree on what caused the death of a 28-year-old man in a jail cell.
Forensic pathologist George Lindholm said Wednesday the death certificate filed by Coroner Dexter Amend is so misleading that Lindholm plans to review other death certificates the coroner has filed.
“It does not convey what I believe to be the cause of death,” Lindholm said. “This to me is not at all precise and to some extent misleading.”
Lindholm performs most of Spokane County’s autopsies at Amend’s request. He then relays his assessment of deaths to Amend, who rarely views actual autopsies.
Last month, Lindholm and police questioned the accuracy of Amend’s death certificates. Police complained the coroner didn’t order enough autopsies and was callous toward survivors.
In the Monday death certificate, Amend downplayed a key component to Mario Lozada’s death - the way he was restrained by police and jailers, Lindholm said.
Lozada died from a combination of being placed in a position that made breathing more difficult and methamphetamines, which sped up his heart rate, Lindholm said.
Amend listed Lozada’s immediate cause of death as irregular heartbeat - “arrhythmia - ventricular fib.” He later stated physical activity, restraint and position “possibly” contributed to his death.
“We can take the ‘possibly’ right out of there as far as I’m concerned,” said Lindholm.
Lindholm said he plans to review other death certificates Amend has filed during his nine months as coroner to weed out discrepancies.
Amend was away from his office Wednesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.
“I’m concerned, based on this case, what else may be in other death certificates,” Lindholm said. “I think it’d be appropriate for all the agencies involved - any attorneys, the police department, and even the prosecutor’s office - to discuss the discrepancies with Amend’s office.”
Lindholm also objected to an underlying cause of death Amend included in Lozada’s death certificate: “old fibrous pericarditis,” or an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.
The inflammation was so minor, said Lindholm, “one might as well just say (Lozada’s death was) due to appendix scar or due to scar on finger.”
Lindholm said he owes the public and himself a review of Amend’s findings. “If those death certificates are misrepresenting my opinion or slanting that opinion,” he said, “then I have a credibility problem.”
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