Excessive force, poor medical care led to death of Orange County inmate, lawsuit claims

From [HERE] wrongful death lawsuit filed this week claims that officers at the Orange County Jail knew William Howard, 75, was going through a mental breakdown when they used force, which caused a neck fracture and his death.

The allegations are part of a federal lawsuit filed by Howard’s family against Orange County, corrections officers and the jail’s nursing staff after Howard was killed while in custody.

His death led to a batch of officers being placed under investigation and three members of the nursing staff being reprimanded, including one who was terminated for not properly treating Howard after the takedown, according to internal documents from the jail.

Howard’s family did not include an exact dollar amount for which they are suing but the lawsuits states they are looking for reimbursement for medical and funeral expenses, mental pain and suffering and loss of earnings.

The lawsuit claims he had glaucoma, an eye condition that causes blindness, so officers banged on the cell door to get his attention but Howard did not respond.

Cpl. Juan Padilla, who has worked for the jail for 10 years and supervised Howard’s transfer, authorized the other four officers to use force.

Internal documents show they used pepper spray then did a takedown on the inmate.

The officers “ripped Howard away from the wall and slammed him head-first onto the concrete cell floor,” the lawsuit states.

The takedown caused a neck fracture — and his death, an autopsy shows.

The lawsuit claims the officers used excessive force. It also says the officers outnumbered Howard and were muscular, whereas Howard was “elderly, effectively blind and weighed 187 pounds.”

Howard’s family attorney also claims the county was negligent in allowing Padilla to work for the jail because he’s faced criminal charges.

The Orange County Jail said Padilla was arrested in Volusia County in 2010 on an assault charge, but the case was dismissed.

He still works for the jail and is in good standing, Proudfit said.

After Howard’s injury, he was not evaluated for more than 24 hours by medical staff at the jail, the lawsuit states.

The suit claims the nursing staff had a “deliberate indifference” to his serious medical needs.

Howard complained of neck and back pain, along with weakness and decreased sensation in his legs, according to notes in his autopsy.

The lawsuit is the second filed within weeks that states the jail’s medical care was inadequate and caused the death of an inmate.

The family of Max Gracia, 22, filed a federal lawsuit against the jail and nursing staff after he died in 2015 because of an infection that was caused by a police dog bite during his arrest.

The lawsuit claims the nurses failed to care for him and get him to a hospital for treatment.