RENO, Nev. — Washoe County commissioners were due to vote Tuesday on a $75,000 settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died following a struggle with guards after a suicide attempt at a Nevada jail, a newspaper reported.
Niko Smith was 31 when he died in custody in August 2015 at the county jail.
His brother and the guardian of his son filed the lawsuit in March, accusing jailers of failing to provide Smith with needed medical attention for erratic behavior and using excessive force when restraining him in a suicide watch cell, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported (http://on.rgj.com/2sXOjOd).
The coroner ruled Smith’s death a homicide by excited delirium, meaning someone high on drugs or suffering a psychotic episode enters a fatal spiral.
It was the first lawsuit filed in connection with a two-year spike in deaths at the jail reported by the newspaper.
The parents of 35-year-old Justin Thompson, who died last summer in custody, filed a similar lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Reno. It accuses deputies of using excessive force and denying adequate medical care to Thompson.
Reno attorney Terri Keyser-Cooper said Smith was taken into custody at a bail bonds business after claiming his girlfriend was trying to poison him with a peanut butter cup with rocks in it.
When officers arrived, Smith accused them of wanting to kill him.
Smith was jailed on suspicion of domestic battery, and autopsy results found he was under the influence of methamphetamine when he was taken into custody
Video obtained by the Gazette-Journal (http://on.rgj.com/2sxDNzG) showed Smith in a monitored cell, where he paced, sat, kneeled, rocked back and forth and talked incoherently before attempting to hang himself with his shirt.
The lawsuit alleges that as many as eight officers struggled to restrain Smith, who was prone on the floor, before noticing that Smith was not breathing. He didn’t regain consciousness.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com