KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Several people, including family members of the deceased, are suing Hamblen County and several Hamblen County officials over an inmate’s death in July of 2021, court documents obtained by WVLT News state.
According to the documents, Oscar Rodriguez was arrested by Morristown City Police Officer Michael Cameron around 2 p.m. on July 14, 2021. Cameron allegedly said in a report that Rodriguez was “walking around the parking lot acting very strange” and stated that Rodriguez asked to be taken to the hospital after taking an unknown substance.
Officers then called an ambulance, the documents said, and Rodriguez had to be handcuffed, the documents said. Afterwards, officers reportedly took Rodriguez to the Hamblen County Jail, where he had to be “dragged into the jail” because he could not walk. Captain Teresa Laws at the jail then put Rodriguez into a holding cell, where he was allegedly left alone for over two hours before being found unresponsive and pronounced dead.
In December of 2019, the county’s sheriff reportedly spoke to the New York Times about jail conditions, calling the Hamblen County Jail an overcrowded “cesspool of a dungeon” that subjects inmates to “horrible conditions.”
The suit documents state that the Hamblen County employees and Sheriff are at fault because they failed to provide Rodriguez with the appropriate care, and because the medical officials at the jail were not able to identify the severity of his condition.
The plaintiffs in the suit allege that they are owed for Rodriguez’s loss of life, suffering, legal costs and punitive damages. They are asking for a total of $40 million.
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