On February 28, 2019, Lamar Catchings, 20, was discovered dead in his cell at the St. Louis County Jail. The young man had begged staff to allow him to see a doctor, but they refused. Instead, a nurse accused Catchings of faking his illness just a few days prior to his death.
He had apparently been complaining for weeks about not feeling well. Catchings told staff he was suffering from headaches, nausea, vomiting, hearing loss, dizziness, weakness, and a burning feeling in the chest. He did not eat for two weeks before his death.
In fact, Catchings had a court appearance on February 22, less than a week before he died. Courtroom video shows he was too sick to stand, and required a wheelchair to take him into the courtroom. A video from a previous court appearance several weeks earlier shows him able to walk and stand.
Now his mother, Tashonda Troupe, has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the county and various jail staff members. In her lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court's Eastern District of Missouri, she claims St. Louis County’s jail healthcare system is deficient and doctors and nurses do not receive proper medical supervision.
At the time of his death, Catching had been in that jail for a year, held on an assault charge. His mother said he was healthy when he entered the facility, but his condition deteriorated considerably.
90 Percent Survival Rate
Catching’s autopsy revealed he succumbed to a form of leukemia that, with treatment, has a 90 percent survival rate. The disease, acute promyelocytic leukemia, is unlike most leukemias with such a high survival rate after treatment.
In addition, the autopsy report shows that a corrections officer failed to follow protocol the night before Catching’s death. The guard performing inmate checks is supposed to make the inmate stand up in the cell, but did not do that with Catchings. Instead, he simply looked into the cell, where Catchings was lying on his bed. When he was found dead the next morning, he was in the same position.
Four Other St. Louis County Jail Deaths
Catchings was not the only inmate to die in a St. Louis County Jail that year. Four other men also passed from possible medical neglect. John Shy, 29, died from an intestinal hemorrhage. Larry Reavis was found dead in his cell. Several hours after being moved from the jail to the Missouri state prison system on June 11, Daniel Stout was dead.
The year closed with the death of Jo’von Mitchell on December 27 after he was sent to the hospital from jail. One thing the men had in common was asking for medical assistance that they did not receive.
In the case of Reavis, he was shaking so badly that he thought he was having a seizure just a few hours before he died. Shy had been taken to the hospital but returned to the jail, where he screamed for help for seven hours before dying. Stout begged to see a nurse before being put on a van for the transfer. He had thrown up before the transport.
Mitchell did not feel well enough to see family members who visited on Christmas Eve. On Christmas, he experienced issues walking and stumbled out of the cell.
An internal affairs investigation concluded that jail staff did not listen to inmates claiming illness and should have done more to treat them.
Have You or a Loved One Been a Victim of Jail Medical Neglect?
The list of preventable inmate deaths and outsourced medical care is extensive and tragic. These issues are ongoing. Without serious reform of the system, the numbers will only continue to rise.