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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Family of inmate who died files $6.5M claim against Spokane County

The family of a man who choked to death on his own vomit while being booked into Spokane County Jail in May has filed a wrongful death claim requesting damages of $6.5 million. Lorenzo Hayes, 37, is one of four inmates who has died at the jail in recent weeks, prompting calls for an outside investigation. The Spokane County Medical Examiner determined Hayes’ death was a homicide earlier this month, and the Spokane Investigative Regional Response team, headed by the Washington State Patrol, is conducting an investigation to determine if criminal charges will be filed. In its claim filed Wednesday, which the county has 60 days to respond to before a civil lawsuit may be filed, the family of Hayes called his death “completely unnecessary.” “This death could have been easily avoided had jail staff and officers on-scene been properly trained and supervised,” the family wrote in its claim. Video cameras captured the lead-up to Hayes’ death, according to Jeff Sevigney, spokesman for the WSP. Hayes was uncooperative when being brought to jail and had to be carried by corrections officers into the booking area from a patrol car, he said. Officers moved him to a restraint chair when he began to show medical distress, Sevigney said, and life-saving efforts were unsuccessful. The family is requesting damages between $6.5 million and $9.5 million, according to the claim. An autopsy showed Hayes had methamphetamine in his system at the time of death, and he was arrested on suspicions of violating a no-contact order and illegally possessing a firearm, according to court records.