New lawsuit claims Union Co. Sheriff’s Office deleted video of inmate’s death

Sheriff sued over inmate death in Union County

MONROE, N.C. (WBTV) – A new lawsuit filed Tuesday says Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey and his staff at the jail are responsible for the death of an inmate who died from a drug overdose while in custody.

The complaint, which was filed in federal court, claims jail staff were negligent in caring for Dustin Medlin, who died at the Union County Jail in late July 2018. The lawsuit also says some video from the jail during the time Medlin was in custody was deleted.

This is the second lawsuit filed against Cathey’s office in as many weeks.

Last week, a man sued the office alleging deputies used excessive force in repeatedly punching him in the head, tasing him and pepper spraying him. Documents obtained by WBTV show deputies’ account of what happened—including claims the man was resisting—are inconsistent with dash cam video of the arrest.

According to the lawsuit, Medlin was arrested by officers with the Monroe Police Department as part of a drug bust late on the night of July 28, 2018 and booked into the county jail.

During the police investigation, the lawsuit says, a woman who was arrested at the same time as Medlin told a police officer that she saw Medlin insert methamphetamine into his anal cavity.

The lawsuit says that when Medlin was booked into jail around 1:50 a.m. officers told staff they suspected Medlin had inserted drugs into his anal cavity and appeared to be under the influence of drugs at the time of processing.

After Medlin was booked into the jail, the lawsuit says, he was sweating. A sergeant at the jail exchanged text messages with the arresting officer that Medlin appeared to be trying to get the drugs out of his body and, the lawsuit says, expressed concern that Medlin could die if he had ingested that quantity of drugs.

The lawsuit says Medlin was placed in a jail cell at 2:54 a.m., took off his shirt and was left in the cell until he was taken away by EMS hours later.

For the next three hours, the lawsuit says, jail staff quickly looked into a small hole in Medlin’s jail cell roughly once an hour.

During shift change at 5:30 a.m., the lawsuit says, the incoming jail staff—who had been told Medlin appeared to be intoxicated from drugs—appeared to be unwell.

“She further noted that she observed Medlin was very clammy and sweaty, laying on his right side, shirt off, moaning and shaking,” the lawsuit says of the officer who checked on Medlin shortly after starting her shift.

The lawsuit says jail staff noticed Medlin’s conditioned worsened around 5:30, when another jail staff member went to give him some paperwork.

“At that time he could see that something was wrong with Medlin as he was lying face down with his arms under his body on the mattress with his head raised up and clinching his hand toward his upper torso area while sweating profusely,” the lawsuit says.

Roughly five minutes later, the lawsuit says the staff member who found Medlin lying face down on his mattress told a second jail staff member about Medlin’s deteriorating conditions, including that he was soaking wet and talking in coherently.

When the second officer went to Medlin’s cell, Medlin was “laying on his back with his knees and arms up,” according to the lawsuit. He was still talking incoherently.

The lawsuit says staff called the nurse on duty at 6:00 a.m., which is the first time any medical staff is called to examine Medline.

According to the lawsuit, EMS was called at 6:12 a.m. and arrived nine minutes later. When they arrived, EMS workers noted Medlin did not appear to be breathing, the lawsuit says. EMS performed CPR while at the jail and en route to the hospital but Medlin died at the hospital at 7:04 a.m.

The lawsuit claims that much of the video taken at the jail during the time Medlin was being held “is not viewable or was deleted.”

“Each minute of the security video footage from Medlin’s cell stops for some period of time, ranging from approximately fifteen seconds to more than one minute at a time,” the lawsuit says. “There is no video footage of Medlin at the jail from 5:17 a.m. until 6:03 a.m.”

Reached for early Tuesday evening, a spokesman for Cathey said the Sheriff would review the lawsuit and respond.

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