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City of Dallas to pay $1M to settle lawsuit in 2019 death of man found unresponsive in holding cell

The family of Juan Segovia sued the city in June, saying his civil rights were violated when he was checked out twice by Dallas paramedics while drunk in Old East Dallas and not taken to a hospital.

Dallas has agreed to pay $1 million to relatives of a 45-year-old man who alleged that first responders refused to get him medical help for hours while he was in custody in 2019, leading to him dying a week later.

The family of Juan Segovia sued the city in June, saying that his civil rights were violated when he was checked out twice by Dallas paramedics while drunk in Old East Dallas and not taken to a hospital.

Instead, he was hauled off to jail by police and left unchecked overnight in a cell while unconscious. He was taken the next morning to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, where he died.

The Dallas City Council approved the settlement Wednesday.

“He was basically nonresponsive the entire time, couldn’t speak, didn’t even know his name,” said Scott Palmer, an attorney representing Segovia’s family in the lawsuit. “No one did any of the things you’re normally supposed to do with a person who’s incapacitated.”

Palmer said no amount of money will end Segovia’s family’s grief, but it represents “an acknowledgment that something went wrong here.”

Juan Segovia
Juan Segovia(File)

He said Segovia’s medical records show his cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma, but what led to it hasn’t been determined. Palmer said two people separately called 911 within two hours of each other to report that Segovia was so intoxicated that he kept falling and couldn’t stand on his own.

A relative of Segovia declined to comment when reached by The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday.

The lawsuit was filed against the city as well as the eight Dallas first responders who interacted with Segovia on June 30, 2019, and didn’t immediately get him aid: deputy marshals Alexis Booker-Lewis, Ashleigh Warren, Michael Rumsey and Craig Houston; police officers Robert Beck and Kenneth Brown; and paramedics Maxwell Boeckel and Rodney Featherston.

The city of Dallas filed no formal response to the allegations in the lawsuit, federal court records show. Senior Assistant City Attorney Lindsay Wilson Gowin wrote in an October court filing that both sides agreed to meet with a mediator in November and that they were trying to “resolve this matter to avoid costly and protracted litigation.”

According to the city, police arrested Segovia on outstanding warrants. He was “highly intoxicated” while being booked and was taken to the hospital the next morning after detention center staff found him unconscious and unresponsive in his holding cell.

According to the lawsuit, Boeckel and Featherston responded to the first call about Segovia, checked him out and allowed him to walk away after waving off an ambulance that was heading to the scene.

Because Boeckel and Featherston arrived in a firetruck, city policy didn’t require them to document Segovia’s vital signs, the lawsuit said.

Boeckel and Featherston also responded to the second call two hours later at 4800 Live Oak Street, found Segovia unconscious on the ground and called police. The paramedics didn’t re-examine Segovia, the lawsuit said.

Beck and Brown, the police officers, responded a little before 9 p.m. and carried Segovia into a patrol car with the help of the paramedics. He was being taken to the City Detention Center on warrants stemming from outstanding tickets, according to the lawsuit.

Segovia rode in the backseat face down and handcuffed. He needed to be pushed in a wheelchair into the detention center because he was still unconscious and “limp like a ragdoll” during the booking process, the court papers said.

Booker-Lewis had to hold Segovia’s head up when he was being asked about his condition and medical history, the lawsuit said. He responded only with faint grunts, and Brown and Rumsey laughed at how intoxicated he was, the lawsuit said.

Booker-Lewis marked Segovia’s responses to all the jail screening questions as “no” even though he gave no coherent answers, according to the lawsuit. She then wheeled Segovia to a cell about 10:15 p.m., where she met up with Warren.

“Juan’s unconscious body was completely flaccid and nonresponsive,” the lawsuit said. “Booker-Lewis and Warren can be seen on video surveillance dumping Juan’s lifeless body onto the ground and walking out of the cell.”

Houston checked on Segovia about 45 minutes later and left him there. No one checked on him again until around 5 a.m.

Booker-Lewis and Warren reported checking on Segovia through the night, but surveillance video shows that didn’t happen, the lawsuit said. At some point overnight, Segovia vomited in the cell.

Houston and Rumsey tried unsuccessfully to wake Segovia in the morning. It wasn’t until 6 a.m. that Rumsey alerted a supervisor taking over his shift that someone should check on Segovia. Paramedics got to Segovia at 6:15 a.m. and took him to the hospital.

Segovia died July 7.

Since Segovia’s death, Dallas has opened a sobering center at the City Detention Center. It’s meant to divert intoxicated people from jail to a recovery facility where they can be monitored by case workers. The sobering center had a soft opening in May.

The center is overseen by the marshal’s office. In May, the department said almost 8,400 impaired people had been booked into the detention center for public intoxication since 2019.

Staff writer Kelli Smith contributed to this report.

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