DES MOINES, Wash. — [GRAPHIC WARNING: The video above may be disturbing to some viewers. It was shared by the family of Damaris Rodriguez because they say they don’t want the same treatment to happen to others.]
Damaris Rodriguez died while behind bars at the SCORE jail, even though every moment of her four-day decline was captured on surveillance video.
The 43-year-old old mother of five was booked into the South Correctional Entity Jail in Des Moines on Dec. 30, 2017 after "she suffered from a mental health episode,” according to the federal complaint her family filed in the United States District Court of Western Washington.
Rodriguez’s husband, Rey, recently spoke to KIRO 7 through an interpreter and said he called 911 that day “to get an ambulance, but instead the police arrived.”
“I told them, she doesn’t need to go to jail. She needs to go to a hospital,” the SeaTac man said.
During discovery, the family's attorney received surveillance video from SCORE that shows a listless Rodriguez being carried into jail, apparently in handcuffs, on that late December afternoon. Multiple camera angles, show her being dragged into a booking cell and left there, lying face down.
Approximately 20 minutes later, Rodriguez is seen on surveillance being moved into another cell, where she then wanders in circles. By the next day - according to the time-stamped video - Rodriguez was naked, crawling and apparently vomiting.
“Almost every second that she was in jail was captured on video, and I think the only way to describe that video is as a window into hell,” Nate Bingham, of Krutch Lindell Bingham Jones P.S. attorneys in Seattle, told KIRO 7.
Rodriguez “was sick, she was hallucinating and she was dying,” according to Bingham, who said no one knows Rodriguez’s exact time of death. According to the surveillance video, it appears she died sometime late on the night of Jan. 3 or early Jan. 4, 2018.
“After she stopped breathing, it was awhile before anyone even noticed her,” Bingham said.
Bingham represents Rodriguez’s widower and five children. He shared the SCORE surveillance video with KIRO 7 that he believes shows, according to the lawsuit, that Rodriguez spent "four days alone in a cell, naked, surrounded by her own urine and vomit," "fighting both mentally and physically against her own hallucinations."
Despite being booked into jail, Rodriguez "was never arraigned for -- let alone convicted of -- a crime. She was never even taken to court" according to the family’s complaint.
Federal law demands an inmate be charged with a crime - or released - within 72 hours after arrest.
Rodriguez remained behind bars for more than 106 hours, according to the timestamp on the surveillance video.
“She was never taken in front of a judge,” Bingham said. “Damaris spent the next four days descending into insanity, becoming sicker and sicker and eventually her body shut down and she died.”
Jose Marte is the oldest child of Demaris Rodriguez. Living in New York, Marte recently spoke with KIRO 7 and said he “can’t imagine the pain she was going through.”
“She just needed help,” the 25-year old tearfully said via Skype. “That was the moment that nobody was there for her, and that really upsets me a lot.”
In their lawsuit, the family alleges SCORE officers and medical staff "ignored" Rodriguez for nearly four days when "she did not eat. She barely slept. She never saw a doctor and was never taken to a hospital."
According to Bingham, “there were a couple of nurses that stopped by, they tried to talk to her, but most of the time she was far too mentally ill to engage with them at all.”
Bingham believes SCORE staff members “should have taken her to a hospital right away,” because “if a mentally ill person can’t participate in an examination, there’s a problem.”
The Rodriguez family lawsuit claims the wife and mother eventually died from "an easily diagnosable and treatable metabolic condition called ketoacidosis” that could have been prevented, had jail staff more closely monitored the woman whose every move was visible on surveillance cameras.
“If she had eaten, if she had had a couple of sips of Gatorade even, it would have been different and she could have survived,” their lawyer claims.
The civil lawsuit names SCORE, its employees and NaphCare Incorporated as defendants: https://www.naphcare.com/
NaphCare is an Alabama-based company that, according to its website, "helps correctional facilities" "manage their healthcare needs by offering an exceptional team of medical professionals."
Bingham disagrees. “It appears as if there’s no doctor on staff at SCORE,” he said. “NaphCare is a for-profit organization, so they’re in this operation to make money. What that means is, every time they need additional care they can’t provide cheaply and right away, it cuts into their bottom line.”
Bingham believes Rodriguez died because SCORE employees didn’t want to pay to bring in a doctor to care for her. KIRO 7 asked attorneys representing the defendants for on-camera interviews to get their perspective on the in-custody death of Damaris Rodriguez.
Those requests were denied.
Instead, John E. Justice, of Law, Lyman, Daniel, Kamerrer & Bogdanovich, P.S in Olympia, emailed a statement on behalf of SCORE saying that Rodriguez "had been seen by medical and mental health personnel and was observed over the course of her stay by corrections staff and medical personnel. Upon finding her unresponsive, staff immediately initiated emergency procedures and began CPR. Unfortunately, the individual did not survive."
Justice added that an investigation by the Des Moines Police Department concluded "no malicious criminal act" contributed to Rodriguez's death and that "the King County Coroner determined the manner of death was natural."
Not according to Jose Marte, who believes his mother’s death “could have been prevented.”
Rodriguez’s widower said “it’s very difficult” to now raise their four younger children alone “and it’s very sad.”
Bingham believes it is time SCORE “started taking responsibility” for inmate deaths, including Rodriguez’s. “It’s time they started making some changes. They seem to have not come to that conclusion on their own, so we’re going to hold them accountable and we’re going to make sure that they listen.”
Since Rodriguez’s death just over two years ago, there have been two additional deaths at SCORE; one in April and one in September of 2019, according to SCORE’s website: https://www.scorejail.org/news-releases
Nearly six years ago, KIRO 7 covered the death of a 50-year old inmate who fatally injured himself while incarcerated at SCORE. At the time, a licensed practical nurse who once worked at the Des Moines facility claimed there's insufficient medical staff on-site to care for the mentally ill. “They’re not getting the psych treatment they need,” Katherine Jones told KIRO 7 in May of 2014. “There’s no psych staff that come in on a regular basis.”
The Rodriguez lawsuit cites "numerous recent in-custody deaths connected to SCORE and NaphCare” and alleges that "people of color, such as Damaris Rodriguez, have died at a disproportionately high rate."
Full statement on behalf of SCORE:
From John E. Justice of Law, Lyman, Daniel, Kamerrer &
Bogdanovich, P.S in Olympia
“On Thursday, January 4, 2018, staff at the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) facility found an unresponsive detained female. She had been in custody since December 30, 2017. While in custody, the individual had been seen by medical and mental health personnel and was observed over the course of her stay by corrections staff and medical personnel.
Upon finding her unresponsive, staff immediately initiated emergency procedures and began CPR. Unfortunately, the individual did not survive and was pronounced dead in the facility.
An investigation into the individual’s death was conducted by the Des Moines Police Department and concluded that “no malicious criminal act” contributed to her death and the King County Coroner determined the manner of death was natural.
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