Parents file complaint after mentally ill son dies in jail, attorney calls it ‘the most appalling case I’ve ever seen’
POCATELLO — The parents of an inmate who died at the Bannock County Jail say their son’s death was preventable and they want changes made to prevent future deaths.
Lance Allen Quick, 40, died Dec. 14 from dehydration while incarcerated. He was arrested on suspicion of a possible misdemeanor DUI and booked into the jail six days prior.
Lance’s parents, Kim and Shauna Quick, announced Tuesday in a news conference that they have filed a notice of claim against Sheriff Lorin Nielsen and the jail for Lance’s death. The complaint contains disturbing details surrounding Lance’s death.
Kim and Shauna said Lance was diagnosed with PTSD in 2006 and later diagnosed with bipolar disorder but he had been doing well for the past three years.
“He was doing so much better. He had a business … and he was loving that. He was doing very well. So when this hit him, he was shocked,” Shauna said.
Lance was suffering a bipolar manic episode when he was arrested. Lance’s father, Kim, was the Bannock County Coroner at the time and said he told Nielsen about Lance’s medical condition. Kim told Nielsen what medication Lance needed and what would happen if Lance didn’t get it.
“Primarily, we were concerned about his physical well being. Not just his mental health,” Kim said.
While in jail, Lance did not receive his medication and his mental state continued to decline to the point where he “could not understand the concept” of eating, according to the complaint.
Disturbing photos from the jail security camera show Lance spreading food all over his body, stripping naked and rolling on the floor.
The claim says one of the jailers called Portneuf Medical Center to try and get Lance admitted. The jailer was told there wasn’t a bed available but Lance could be brought to the hospital for medical treatment such as lab work.
“Acting in accord with Sheriff Nielsen’s direction, (the jailer) refused to have Lance taken to the hospital for medical treatment because the hospital would require Lance to be accompanied by a law enforcement officer,” according to the claim.
Instead of going to the hospital, the complaint states Lance was placed in a six-foot by 10-foot cell with no toilet or sink and only a drain in the middle of the floor. He was given a floor mat and a blanket.
“The room was often filthy both due to Lance’s inability to care for himself and the infrequency in which it was cleaned,” the claim says.
When Lance’s family and friend tried to visit him in jail, they were told he was “incapacitated” but the claim says they were never informed that Lance wasn’t eating or drinking.
The morning of Dec. 14, jail staff found Lance on his back. He wasn’t breathing and staff attempted CPR, but Lance was already dead.
An autopsy found Lance died of “hypernatremic dehydration and ketoacidosis secondary to (a) prolonged period without food or water.” Lance did not die of a heart attack, as Nielsen said in a news conference shortly after his death. He was dehydrated and starved to death.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and this is the most appalling case I’ve ever seen. It is the most shocking case I’ve ever seen,” said Salt Lake City civil rights attorney Karra Porter.
Porter is representing Kim and Shauna in their claim against Nielsen and the jail.
“This is (the jail’s and county’s) own records that paint this picture of what happened to Lance over that week,” she said.
Porter explained the notice of claim has a demand for $8 million in monetary damages. It was put in there by Porter and not asked for by the Quicks.
“I have told them, if you want to make a change to a system, the law only recognizes one way to do it and that is by hitting them in the pocketbook. That’s why there is a substantial monetary demand in this notice of claim,” Porter said. “What happened was shocking. This was not just ‘a heart attack just as they were getting ready to take him to a hospital.’ It was something much more insidious.”
Nielsen told EastIdahoNews.com Tuesday he had not read the claim yet and could not talk specifically about the situation. He did say he was frustrated with having to house mentally ill patients in jail.
“Our state is miserable when it comes to dealing with mental health,” Nielsen said.
When asked about giving medical treatment to inmates, Nielsen said the jail is equipped with a doctor and registered nurses 24 hours a day.
“There is no problem, as far as the medical aspect of it, other than getting them assessed in what really is the problem. But if the person will not communicate with (the doctor)…If (they) can’t or won’t, or if they become violent, what are we supposed to do?” Nielsen said.
Lance’s parents said they believe Nielsen and the jail knew what Lance’s needs were but failed to see to them.
“Sheriff Nielsen and nearly a dozen Bannock County Jailers all ignored an inmate’s known, severe and deteriorating medical condition for nearly a week. Instead, they just watched him slowly die. Their actions were, under any definition, grossly negligent, reckless and willful and wanton,” the claim says.