Ogden City denies allegations in lawsuit over Weber County Jail death

Thursday , May 10, 2018 - 5:00 AM3 comments

OGDEN — Lawyers for Ogden City have filed their initial defense against a civil suit that alleges authorities neglected a man who died after being jailed for public intoxication.

Michelle Shafer of Hooper filed suit in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City in February against Weber County, Ogden City and several law enforcement officers.

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Her son, Ashley Evan Jessop, was arrested Feb. 27, 2016, by Ogden Police Officer Darien Velasquez after an incident at an apartment complex. He was booked into the Weber County Jail that night. 

Jessop, 35, of Ogden, ended up at McKay-Dee Hospital on Feb. 29 and died March 3. The attending physician listed the cause of death as rhabdomyolysis, acute kidney injury, liver disease and a gastrointestinal bleed.

Jessop’s jail intake screening document shows that Jessop told the screener he was suicidal, was on psychiatric medication and had a history of seizures. Shafer’s suit said the arresting officer and jail screening personnel ignored warning signs that Jessop needed close monitoring and care.

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Once the inmate was processed into the jail, corrections officers and nurses did nothing to help Jessop after he began showing signs of distress, the suit said. Then, Jessop was left on the floor of a cell for up to 24 hours before personnel noticed he was largely unresponsive, the suit said.

Matthew Church, a private attorney representing Ogden City, filed court documents May 1, 2018, denying all allegations against Velasquez and the city.

The defendants should be entitled to protection under the Utah Governmental Immunity Act, the city argued. In many suits against police officers, courts grant qualified immunity to an officer who acted reasonably even though a suspect was harmed.

The city also argued Jessop was “contributarily negligent and-or at fault” because he “had a duty to use reasonable care to provide for his safety and to avoid foreseeable injuries.”

Attorneys for Weber County have yet to file their initial defense against the lawsuit.

The deaths of Jessop and three other people in the Weber or Davis County jails in 2016 were made known only after tips by the public to news reporters.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEMarkShenefelt.

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