Men­tally ill in­mate sues for neg­li­gence

Man who gouged out eyes while be­ing held said of­fi­cials failed to note warn­ing signs

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kirk Mitchell

A gravely men­tally ill in­mate at the Boul­der jail has sued Sher­iff Joe Pelle in fed­eral court, claim­ing jail staff failed to stop the man from us­ing his fin­gers to gouge out his own eyes af­ter sev­eral prior at­tempts to do so.

Ryan Par­tridge, 31, sued Pelle and 21 other jail em­ploy­ees in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Den­ver, claim­ing he blinded him­self be­cause they failed to note warn­ing signs to treat his men­tal ill­ness, ac­cord­ing to the civil law­suit filed Thurs­day by Den­ver civil rights at­tor­neys David Lane and Kathryn Stim­son.

Par­tridge, who is now blind and suf­fers from deep, se­vere schiz­o­phrenic psy­chosis, is seek­ing mon­e­tary awards for neg­li­gence, in­clud­ing com­pen­satory dam­ages for phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal injuries in­clud­ing pain and emo­tional dis­tress and hu­mil­i­a­tion. He suf­fers from au­di­tory and vis­ual hal­lu­ci­na­tions, delu­sions and para­noia, the law­suit says.

On Dec. 17, 2016, Par­tridge curled up in a ball in his cell with fin­ger­nails that hadn’t been cut for six weeks and plucked both of his eyes “com­pletely out of his head,” the law­suit says.

The law­suit says jail­ers failed to re­spond to a se­ries of pre­cur­sor events in which Par­tridge said he would gouge his eyes out. In early 2016, he banged his head into his toi­let, break­ing seven teeth, the law­suit says.

Six weeks ear­lier, while in the grip of a psy­chotic episode, Par­tridge had at­tempted sui­cide by climb­ing to the top rail­ing on a sec­ond-floor tier in­side the jail and div­ing head­first into a metal ta­ble. He smashed his head on the ta­ble and then the ce­ment floor. He sur­vived with bro­ken ver­te­brae, the law­suit says.

A month later, he tried to jump from the same rail­ing but deputies talked him down, the law­suit says. The in­ci­dents fol­lowed sim­i­lar self-mu­ti­la­tion and sui­cide at­tempts that hap­pened months ear­lier while Par­tridge was in and out of the Boul­der jail and the Colorado Men­tal Health In­sti­tute of Pue­blo “pre­sent­ing with un­mis­tak­able signs of se­vere men­tal ill­ness.”

Shane McGurk, the jail’s men­tal health pro­gram di­rec­tor, sought an emer­gency court or­der to get Par­tridge psy­chi­atric treat­ment. The judge or­dered deputies to im­me­di­ately take Par­tridge to get psy­chi­atric treat­ment.

“That or­der was ig­nored as Mr. Par­tridge sat, balled up in his cell, and plucked out his own eye­balls,” the law­suit says. “De­fen­dants’ will­ful and de­lib­er­ate in­dif­fer­ence to Mr. Par­tridge’s se­ri­ous med­i­cal needs directly led to his self-mu­ti­la­tion, head and ver­te­brae in­jury, bro­ken teeth and ul­ti­mately, to his per­ma­nent blind­ness.”

Jail of­fi­cers also “re­peat­edly used ex­ces­sive force against an un­com­pre­hend­ing Mr. Par­tridge, reg­u­larly Tas­ing and punch­ing him, leav­ing him blood­ied, in pain, and tor­tured,” the law­suit says.

The jail failed to prop­erly train of­fi­cers in how to care for a men­tally ill in­mate, the law­suit said.

In 2014 and 2015, Par­tridge’s par­ents be­gan notic­ing signs of men­tal ill­ness, in­clud­ing ir­ra­tional speech and tics. His fa­ther took him to a hos­pi­tal for a 72-hour men­tal health hold. In 2015 and 2016, his par­ents re­peat­edly called po­lice af­ter Par­tridge had vi­o­lent out­bursts.

Ac­cord­ing to jail records, deputies noted that Par­tridge was off his psy­chi­atric med­i­ca­tions and showed signs of psy­chosis and bizarre be­hav­ior, the law­suit said.

“In­mate Par­tridge is well known to the Boul­der County Jail staff and has a his­tory of men­tal health is­sues, which has been de­te­ri­o­rat­ing con­sid­er­ably, with each pass­ing in­car­cer­a­tion,” one deputy wrote.

In early 2016, Par­tridge told deputies that the CIA was telling him to “dig out his eyes” and he un­suc­cess­fully at­tempted to do so.

On March 22, 2016, deputies saw Par­tridge try­ing to gouge his eyes out. He was also psy­chotic and chant­ing, the law­suit says. He was taken to Boul­der Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal, where he again tried to gouge his eyes out dur­ing his ini­tial eval­u­a­tion, the law­suit says.

Par­tridge had been di­ag­nosed with schizophre­nia in Septem­ber af­ter say­ing a judge could hear his thoughts and he wanted to make his mother into a pup­pet. He be­came manic that fall and at one time told a deputy: “You’re try­ing to make it look like I killed my fam­ily, aren’t you?”

On Nov. 17, 2016, a state hos­pi­tal doc­tor tes­ti­fied Par­tridge was com­pe­tent to pro­ceed to trial in a crim­i­nal mis­chief case. His at­tor­ney asked the judge to sen­tence Par­tridge to time served so he could get men­tal health treat­ment. In­stead, the judge sen­tenced Par­tridge to six months in a work re­lease pro­gram in which he re­turned to the jail.

On Dec. 1 of that year, jail­ers talked Par­tridge off of an up­per tier. He got down but roared like an an­i­mal, the law­suit says. The next day Par­tridge took a swing at Deputy Dan New­comb, who then punched the in­mate in the face, the law­suit says. Other deputies also punched him.

When Par­tridge fell to the ground, deputy Robert Hicks pum­meled Par­tridge in the back four or five times with “ham­mer-fist” blows, the law­suit says. Two deputies Tased Par­tridge, it says.

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