Lawyers representing a Muskogee police officer and the city in a civil rights lawsuit plan to question the father of a man who died in custody at the county jail in preparation of their defense.
Lawyers representing the estate of Floyd Patterson III allege the 35-year-old man died as a result of the deliberate indifference exhibited by the officer and jail employees to Patterson's medical needs. In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Oklahoma, they cite medical records showing Patterson's glucose level was nearly five times higher than normal when he died.
Daniel Smolen, a Tulsa lawyer whose firm represents Patterson's father, special administrator of the estate, alleges in the complaint that Muskogee Police Officer Christopher Rochell was deliberately indifferent to Patterson's "obvious distress." Rather than seeking a medical evaluation and care, the estate alleges Rochell, who denies the allegations in court documents, arrested Patterson for public intoxication without probable cause and left him at the jail without completing the booking process.
"The Jail staff's failure to medically assess or treat Rocky is especially troubling considering not only his obvious signs of a serious and life-threatening medical condition, but also the fact that Rocky was known at the Jail," Smolen said, noting in the complaint that Patterson notified jailers of his diabetic condition on a medical questionnaire months earlier. "The prior documentation ... combined with his symptoms on June 17, 2018, made it blatantly obvious that Rocky was at substantial risk of grave harm and required emergent medical attention."
Former Sheriff Rob Frazier, who held the office when Patterson died in June 2018, was sued in his official capacity. It is well-established law that a civil rights claim of this nature filed against a county sheriff in an official capacity "is the same as bringing a suit against the county," so his successors stepped into that role after he left office.
Smolen alleges a history at the jail of overcrowding and a failure to provide medical care to inmates to support the civil rights claims and state claims for damages. Frazier denied the allegations in the answer filed by lawyers on his behalf.
The city of Muskogee was named as a defendant along with up to 10 defendants who have yet to be identified.