In 2019, Tyrique Tookes, 18, complained of chest pains while in custody at Georgia’s Fulton County Jail (FCJ). Days later, he was dead. His family filed a lawsuit in May 2021 alleging medical neglect on the part of the facility’s healthcare workers was the cause of his demise.
Medical services to the FCJ were contracted with Alabama-based NaphCare, a provider of correctional healthcare services in jails and prisons. The company was awarded a $20.7 million contract to provide services at the FCJ in June 2018. Previously, five inmates died at the facility in just 2.5 months.
The lawsuit names more than a dozen defendants, many of them employed by NaphCare, and NaphCare itself. The suit does not name the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the FCJ.
Chest Tightness and Extreme Pain
Tookes had been at the FCJ on an $8,000 bond after an arrest for taking and receiving stolen property in early March. About six weeks after he arrived at FCJ, Tookes started complaining about tightness in his chest and “constant” intense pain. Tookes rated the pain as a 10 on a scale of one to ten. It increased when he lay down or after eating, according to the lawsuit.
On April 27, a physician’s assistant employed by NaphCare told Tookes he might have heartburn. The PA recommended Tums, ice packs, ibuprofen, and drinking lots of fluids. Tookes was told to follow up should his symptoms get worse. The lawsuit alleges no medical doctor signed off on the PA’s assessment.
Over the next four days, Tookes received antiacids and cold compresses, as per the lawsuit. He was scheduled for a follow-up appointment on May 1, but records indicate it was canceled upon his release. Tookes was not released.
No Evaluation and Death
Tookes did not receive any further healthcare evaluation. On May 4, 2019, staff found him unresponsive. By the time they saw him, there was no pulse, his body was cold, and rigor mortis was setting in.
According to the autopsy report, toxicology tests came back negative, and there was no evidence of injury. The cause of death was ruled “cardiac tamponade” due to a ruptured ascending aorta.
The lawsuit states that had the high schooler’s complaints been taken seriously, he would still be alive. The lawsuit alleges Tookes should have been taken to the hospital for X-rays. His mother heard of his symptoms and asked jail officials to send her son to the hospital. That did not happen.
The attorney for Tookes’ parents said that a young man complaining about severe chest pains should have raised red flags for healthcare providers. Either an X-ray or an EKG would have revealed a problem. Tookes’ aorta was blowing up like a balloon, and surgery could have saved him.
Another attorney representing the family said a person who was not incarcerated and experienced such symptoms would have been taken to the emergency room right away. He called the death of Tookes an example of prison healthcare providers putting profits over people.
To learn more about holding prisons and jails accountable for inmate deaths and serious injury, visit our death in custody page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone at 866.836.4684