- 42-Year-Old Man Dies in Custody at Humboldt County Jail
- District Attorney Finds Toxic Meth Levels, Not Police Misconduct, at Blame in 2014 Jailhouse Death
A lawsuit against county government brought by the mother of a man who died in jail may proceed, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.
Daren Borges, 42, died of a massive methamphetamine overdose on June 13, 2014, shortly after being booked into custody at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility.
A federal lawsuit filed by Stephany Borges in the wake of her son’s death seeks to hold Humboldt County government, the City of Eureka, Sheriff Mike Downey and several Eureka police officers and correctional facility staff responsible for violating her son’s civil rights during his interaction with police. Borges might have been saved, her lawyers argue, if he had been given proper medical treatment.
On Wednesday, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a mixed ruling on the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, which could have ended Borges’ lawsuit. Rogers dismissed all claims against the City of Eureka and its officers, and several claims against the county.
However, Rogers ruled that the bulk of Borges’ lawsuit against the county government, Sheriff Mike Downey and four correctional officers could proceed.
”While the loss of any life is regrettable, the City is pleased the Court recognized that neither the City nor its officers had any responsibility for Daren Borges’ death,” the Eureka Police Department said in a press release issued this morning.
But Rogers ruled that four of Stephany Borges’ claims were valid enough to be heard by a jury. They include claims that the county and its employees violated Daren Borges’ civil rights — his right to due process of the law, and/or his right of freedom from illegal search and seizure or illegal use of force — as well as a section of California law that requires a correctional officer to take action if he “knows or has reason to know that the prisoner is in need of immediate medical care and he fails to take reasonable action to summon such medical care.”
Borges was arrested for public intoxication at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon near the corner of Seventh and D streets, where he was acting erratically and taking off his clothes. The two Eureka police officers who responded to the scene — Officers Michael Stelzig and Bryon Franco — agreed that Borges did not require hospitalization, and could be taken to jail. Stelzig drove Borges to the jail. When he went in to prepare the correctional deputies for booking, Borges pounded his head on the door and window of the police car.
Correctional officers put Borges in a “sobering cell” after he was booked into jail, due to his erratic behavior. A nurse was brought to the jail to evaluate him, but was unable to do so because he was behaving dangerously. Jail staff performed several checks on Borges in the meanwhile, but by around 3:15 p.m — according to video surveillance — he had stopped moving, though correctional officers believed at the time that he continued to breathe. When they checked him at 4 p.m. he had no pulse. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter, and a subsequent autopsy showed that he had at least five times the toxic level of meth in his blood.
In her lawsuit, Stephany Borges maintains that her son could have been saved if he had been received medical care before 3:45 p.m. Judge Roberts’ ruling Wednesday means that her lawyers will have the opportunity to make that case to a jury.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers full ruling on the defendants’ motions for summary judgment can be found at this link.
Press release from the Eureka Police Department below:
On January 25, 2017 the Honorable Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, a United States District Court judge ruled the City of Eureka and its officers were dismissed from the lawsuit on summary judgment. The lawsuit brought by Stephany Borges, the mother of decedent, through the Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo and John C. Fattahi. The City was defended by Ms. Adrienne M. Moran, of Shapiro Galvin Shapiro and Moran of Santa Rosa.
Daren Borges was arrested after citizens called police regarding Borges taking off his clothes in public. Borges later died of acute methamphetamine intoxication. According to the court, summary judgment is proper if the pleadings and evidence in record “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.” Summary judgement was then granted.
While the loss of any life is regrettable, the City is pleased the Court recognized that neither the City nor its officers had any responsibility for Daren Borges’ death. The City and its officers have now been dismissed from the lawsuit.