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KSJD Newscast - November 6th, 2015

  • Death of Navajo man in 2013 prompts family members to sue Montezuma County Sheriff's Office and Southwest Memorial Hospital.

The death of a 38-year-old man in 2013 has prompted his mother, sister, and seven children to sue Montezuma County and the Sheriff’s Office, Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez, former Sheriff Dennis Spruell, and a number of other individuals. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on October 27th, two years to the day after Harrison Mann Begay, a Navajo from Tonalea, Arizona, was found dead in his cell in the county detention center. The lawsuit alleges that on the afternoon of October 25th, 2013, he was found intoxicated on the floor of the Walmart men's room with a bruise on his forehead. Taken to the Southwest Memorial ER, he was given a CAT scan and vitamins, then released to the Bridge homeless shelter despite a potentially fatal blood alcohol level of .376. The Bridge is not a medical facility and the nearest detox is in Durango. The suit says Begay checked out of the Bridge and was found unconscious and drunk on Listerine in Walmart early the next morning. The complaint alleges Begay was taken back to the hospital but was not brought inside, just examined in the back seat of a police patrol car, then cleared for jail. When Begay’s mother, sister and brother arrived at the sheriff’s office after being notified he was in custody, they allegedly saw him being wheeled into jail on a cart, bleeding from his head, drooling and unconscious. The complaint says his sister demanded he be hospitalized, but a sheriff’s officer said she would have to pay a $500 cash bond. Begay was found dead in his cell around 3:30 a.m. from what was later found to be "complications of chronic alcohol use." The suit claims that "patient dumping" of acutely intoxicated patients is a common practice affecting many Native Americans who are taken to the ER and then discharged without adequate medical care. The defendants have not yet filed their response to the complaint.

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