PHOENIX - A Maricopa County female inmate sat in a jail cell for more than 40 minutes with a garbage bag over her head before any deputy took action, according to a $6.2 million lawsuit recently filed against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
The Arizona Republic reports that Angela Chavez-Metzger, 44, claims in the lawsuit that she faced substandard treatment during her late-February jail stay because she is Latina. The lawsuit also said that officers showed deliberate indifference to her medical needs.
But Sheriff's Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre said a review of the incident left sheriff's officials with the impression that Chavez-Metzger was using the garbage bag for warmth. He criticized the decision of Chavez-Metzger's attorney to "play the race card" when the bag would have obscured her ethnicity.
Chavez-Metzger's attorney, Joy Bertrand, is "forgetting that her client was inside a trash bag and reported her name to be Metzger," MacIntyre said. "This is not a little plastic bag that fits snugly over the head. It's a 25- to 30-gallon plastic bag that, from everything we saw, she used to keep warm."
Chavez-Metzger was unresponsive when detention officers and medical personnel began to treat her, but a sheriff's administrator said she was breathing and had a pulse when she was taken to the hospital.
MacIntyre pointed out that Chavez-Metzger was released from the hospital after a short stay and had no injuries.
Chavez-Metzger had been booked on suspicion of assaulting her husband. She concedes she was under the influence of prescription pills and says she believes she told Phoenix police and firefighters that she was suicidal. The assault charge was dismissed last month.
The claim briefly mentions Chavez-Metzger's interaction with Phoenix police and notes that her medical conditions should have been known to sheriff's detention staff members because she told them about negative reactions to medication during prior stays in Maricopa County jails.
Bertrand also represents the family of an inmate who died in the sheriff's custody earlier this year. A medical examiner's report into the cause and manner of Raymond Anthony Farinas' death is pending, but Bertrand said there is a pattern of mistreatment in Maricopa County jails that is not hard to discern.
"The first thing is that all my clients in these circumstances are Hispanic," she said. "And the next thing would be this indifference to the needs of these human beings in their custody."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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