Wrongful death: Cops failed to treat detainee who overdosed

By Ann Knef | Jul 2, 2008

An East St. Louis man's death while incarcerated at the city jail is the subject of a wrongful death complaint filed June 25 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Kensey M. Lewis, Sr., who had ingested an "excessive" number of pain pills before his arrest, was jailed at around 7 p.m. on Nov. 11, 2006. He was pronounced dead 16 hours later at 10:01 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2006 by a deputy St. Clair County coroner, the suit claims.

According to the complaint, the city of East St. Louis, the East St. Louis Police Department and several police officers are allegedly negligent for failing to provide reasonable and appropriate medical care to Lewis.

The suit claims that "at the time of the arrest defendants were informed...that Mr. Lewis had taken an excessive number of pills which had the potential to cause him great harm."

Cherrie Cook, mother of plaintiffs Kensey Lewis, Jr., Keveon Lewis, Keyon Lewis, Nicole Lewis and Shondre Hinkle, has been appointed special administrator of Lewis' estate. Cook's children are also the children of the decedent, the complaint states.

Co-plaintiff is D. Jean Ortega-Piron, the legal guardian of Shondre Hinkle.

"Defendants and their agents and employees' actions in taking Mr. Lewis into custody and locking him in a jail cell and failing and omitting to provide any medical treatment were affirmative and willful in nature," the complaint states.

An autopsy showed that Lewis was found to have 13 micrograms of Tramadol per millileter of blood, a lethal level, the suit claims.

Tramadol is an analgesic used for treating moderate to severe pain.

"Thirteen micrograms of Tramadol per millileter of blood is thiry times the therapeutic level of Tramadol which is between .2 to .4 micrograms per millileter of blood," the complaint states.

"Peak concentration of Tramadol is approximately 2 hours from the time of ingestion.

"With 13 micrograms per millileter of blood in his system, Mr. Lewis would have been comatose and unresponsive within a short period of time of his being taken into the custody of the defendants..."

The plaintiffs claim that a reasonably careful police officer would find it reasonable and necessary to provide Lewis with medical treatment.

Officers named in the suit include Vincent Anderson, Danielle Moore, Debra Sinkies and Darlene Diggs.

Represented by William T. Dowd of Dowd & Dowd in St. Louis, the plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $75,000 in damages.

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