The mother of a U.S. Army veteran who overdosed in a jail cell and later died has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Oregon deputies who were heard on video cracking jokes as her son thrashed uncontrollably in his padded cell.
Brenda Kay Nordenstrom is also suing the jail’s medical staff on behalf of her son, Bryan Everett Perry, who died Nov. 4, 2016. Perry, 31, had been booked into the Clackamas County Jail on an outstanding warrant about five hours before he died.
The lawsuit claims multiple civil rights violations and gross negligence. Perry’s autopsy showed he died of methamphetamine toxicity, the suit says.
Perry’s obituary, which described him as a gifted poet who wanted to return to school to become a welder, stated that he was a gunner in an Army infantry unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“He spent his 18th birthday in a convoy from Kuwait to Baghdad, where many lives were lost,” the obituary said. “Bryan heroically fought until he was injured in September 2003 and was honorably discharged with the Purple Heart Medal of Honor.”
The obituary said Perry wanted to someday be a father and that he “spent his last few days on this planet very much in love.”
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts last week released cellphone videos recorded in the jail that show deputies joking about the involuntary movements Perry was making. The release came after The Oregonian filed a public records request for the footage.
Both videos show Perry thrashing violently in the cell. In one of the videos, Deputy Ricky Paurus is heard saying, “Look what I got for show-and-tell today.”
He and other deputies are also heard joking that Perry should be put in a cage and wheeled into schools to educate students on what illicit drugs can do.
Deputy Matrona Shadrin, who filmed the videos, is heard saying, “I wish we could show this to his girlfriend, like, ‘You love this?’”
A report released by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office indicated that Perry’s girlfriend, who had also been arrested, ended up in the intensive care unit of Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center, where she was treated for an overdose of methamphetamine and opiates.
In the second video, Shadrin is heard saying, “I’m glad we took him before this kicked in.”
Police reports indicated that Perry appeared all right at the time of his arrest. Video from the jail showed, however, that his involuntary movements had begun by the time he was booked at 7:15 p.m.
The lawsuit on Perry’s behalf says he was left to thrash, twitch and moan in his cell for more than four hours before he died.
Roberts said in a statement last week that he cannot comment on the lawsuit, which focuses mainly on Perry’s medical care, which was provided by medical contractor Corizon Health.
“But I will say this: The laughter, substance and tone of several comments heard from my employees in that video were inappropriate, and do not conform to our professional standards,” Roberts said. “My office has already taken action. We conducted an internal investigation and took disciplinary action against the employees who still worked at the Sheriff's Office.”
Shadrin resigned from her job prior to the investigation, the sheriff said.
“Compassionate treatment of those suffering from addiction and/or mental health issues is a cornerstone of our agency,” Roberts said. “Every day, in our jail and on the streets, our deputies encounter the hazards associated with drug addiction, and we have launched numerous initiatives to counter them -- including our Residential Treatment program, CIT training, Behavioral Health Unit partnership, and counseling at the Transition Center and elsewhere.
“I expect our more than 500 employees to uphold the highest level of professionalism in their service.”
The lawsuit filed by Perry’s mother states that deputies and Corizon Health nurse Jana Rackley tried to determine what drugs Perry had taken. They spoke with Bridgette Mountsier, Perry’s girlfriend, hoping she could help.
Though there is some discrepancy within police and medical reports as to who told Rackley what Perry had taken, she and jail staff told investigators that they learned he had taken meth, heroin and bath salts.
“Before Ms. Mountsier was returned to her cell, she yelled, ‘I love you, Bryan,’ and Mr. Perry responded, ‘I love you, too,’” the lawsuit states.
Rackley wrote in her own report that Perry told her the drugs he’d taken that day, according to the lawsuit. Shortly before 8 p.m., multiple deputies went into Perry’s cell and held him down so Rackley could take his vital signs.
Rackley reported that his vital signs were OK, but that he was “clearly out of breath and breathing rapidly.” She wrote that she would reassess him in an hour.
About 30 minutes later, however, Mountsier began having the same involuntary movements Perry was experiencing. Within about an hour, she was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Meanwhile, Perry remained in his cell, with deputies periodically bringing him water and Rackley checking his condition, the lawsuit says.
See the cellphone footage turned over to The Oregonian below. Warning: The footage may be too graphic for some viewers.
Another nurse, Camille Valberg, came on duty around 10 p.m., replacing Rackley. The lawsuit states that video from the jail shows she looked into Perry’s cell more than once, but failed to go inside and take his vital signs for more than an hour.
When Valberg and three deputies entered the cell around 11:16 p.m., Perry could not take the water the deputies offered. Valberg rubbed the inmate’s sternum to see if he would respond to painful stimuli, which he did not, and, at 11:23 p.m., began lifesaving measures.
Perry had gone into cardiac arrest, the lawsuit says. He was taken to Kaiser Sunnyside, where he was pronounced dead about 45 minutes later.
In a post on Perry’s 2016 obituary, his mother wrote him a note addressed to her “dear Bryanheart.”
“You were courageous, strong and full of love,” Nordenstrom wrote. “I miss you so much, but feel comfort in knowing that you are not suffering anymore. There is no more emotional or physical pain for you to experience. You are in the place of perfect love and peace. I feel so blessed to have you as my son. You taught me so many things. You will always be in my heart.”
She signed the note, “All My Love, Mommyheart.”
Nordenstrom’s lawsuit accuses both Valberg and Rackley of falsifying their reports to show that Perry was in better shape than he actually was. The filing states that Valberg wrote in her report that Perry was “responsive and cooperative” when she and the deputies entered his cell and that he “suddenly appeared to go unresponsive” as she tried to get a blood pressure reading.
“The jail video shows that Mr. Perry did not sit up when asked to and did not respond cooperatively to having his blood pressure taken,” the lawsuit states. “Deputy (Matt) Savage helped him into a slumped position on the bench. Deputy Paurus had to extend his arm so that Nurse Valberg could attempt to take his blood pressure.”
Rackley wrote in her report that Perry was “easily following directions” when she checked on him at 9:30 p.m. and that he was able to sit up on his bunk and converse with her about the drugs he’d taken and why.
“The jail video shows that Nurse Rackley spent less than 140 seconds with Mr. Perry,” the lawsuit states. “The jail video does not show the type of interactions that would have allowed Nurse Rackley to evaluate Mr. Perry’s ability to understand and follow directions or to ‘make sense.’”
Read the lawsuit filed by Perry’s mother below.
Deputy Benjamin Lefever told investigators after Perry’s death that he had never seen someone so high on drugs.
“He was the highest I’ve seen someone, since I’ve, I mean, not that I’ve worked here that long, but since I’ve worked here, I haven’t seen that before,” Lefever said, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Corizon Health, which formed in 2011 through the merger of Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services, has a history of indifferent treatment of inmates suffering from alcohol or drug overdoses or withdrawal. It cites at least six deaths in multiple states where the company provides medical care in jails and prisons.
A December 2006 report by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division found that an investigation into Correctional Medical Services’ work in five Delaware jails showed inmates were not receiving timely care.
Senior District Judge Richard Enslen of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan lambasted Correctional Medical Services in a 2006 opinion in a case involving the care the company provided.
“Here is the basic message: You are valuable providers of life-saving services and medicines,” Enslen wrote in the opinion, which is quoted in the lawsuit. “You are not coat racks who collect government paychecks while your work is taken to the sexton for burial.”