Dallas Fire Sued Over Death of Intoxicated Man in Police Custody

Two firefighters from Dallas Fire Rescue have been named in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man who died while in police custody. Juan Segovia died on June 30, 2019 after being found unresponsive and transported by Dallas Police to the City Detention Center, referred to in the complaint as the “drunk tank.”

The federal court complaint alleges Dallas Fire-Rescue and the Dallas Police Department failed to provide proper medical attention to Segovia, 45, who was described as “extremely intoxicated.” The complaint alleges the city’s policy toward intoxicated individuals constitutes “deliberate indifference that shocks the conscious.” For those not familiar with this expression, these legal buzzwords – when coupled with a death – create an allegation of a civil rights violation: “a deprivation of life without due process.”

The complaint lists eleven prior “shocking examples [that] display the deliberate indifference the City has shown toward intoxicated people who were in obvious need of medical attention, who are incarcerated in the CDC, and who died as a result of receiving no medical care.” It claims the treatment rendered to Segovia was part of the same “pattern and practice” the city had toward intoxicated individuals.

While most of the 90-page, 432 numbered paragraph complaint focuses on allegations against the Dallas Police Department, here are the allegations against the firefighters, Maxwell Boeckel and Rodney Featherston:

  • That night, two unrelated individuals called 911 to report Juan being intoxicated to the point of falling to the ground and being unable to get up on his own.
  • The calls were made two hours apart demonstrating that Juan’s intoxication was not dissipating.
  • The second time Juan fell, he did not get back up.
  • As a result of both calls, Dallas Fire-Rescue firetruck #8 responded.
  • Defendant Maxwell Boeckel and Defendant Rodney Featherston were DFR paramedics on board DFR firetruck #8.
  • According to Defendant Featherston, when Defendants Boeckel and Featherston responded to the first call of the night regarding Juan, they took Juan’s vitals and called off the ambulance that was also responding.
  • Following DFR firetruck #8 responding to the first call, Juan was able to stand up on his own and walk away.
  • According to City policy, unlike responding ambulance personnel, if DFR personnel arrive in a firetruck, they are not required to document a person’s vitals.
  • Thus, although Defendant Featherston claims Juan’s vitals were taken on the first call there is no documentation of what his vitals were at that time.
  • DFR #8, including Defendant Boeckel and Defendant Featherston, responded to a second call of Juan falling roughly two hours later.
  • When DFR #8 responded the second time that night and saw that it was Juan again, they called for Dallas Police Officers to respond.
  • At that point, despite being unconscious, Juan was detained while waiting for officers to arrive.
  • Defendant Beck and Defendant Brown were the Dallas Police Officers who responded.
  • During their response to the second call of the night regarding Juan, neither Defendant Boeckel nor Defendant Featherston checked Juan’s vitals or conducted a new examination of Juan.
  • No DFR #8 paramedic checked Juan’s vitals when responding to the second call.
  • This time, Juan was not able to stand and walk away; and instead, Juan’s body was limp and “dead weight.”
  • Defendant Boeckel and Defendant Featherston each chose not to re- examine Juan, and instead chose to rely on the information they had from their response to Juan two hours prior, which was no longer representative of Juan’s condition.
  • The decision not to check Juan’s vitals or conduct a new examination on Juan shows that Defendants Boeckel and Featherston refused to treat him a second time that night and were engaging in conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for Juan’s serious medical needs as he was unconscious due to a second fall and his body was “dead weight.”
  • As a result of the City policy not requiring DFR #8 paramedics to document vitals, Juan’s vitals were not taken during this second contact with DFR firetruck personnel, including Defendant Boeckel and Defendant Featherston.
  • Defendants Boeckel and Featherston both simply made the decision Juan was intoxicated but cleared him of needing medical care or attention based off their previous contact with Juan that night and without actually providing a second round of medical care.
  • Had Defendant Boeckel or Defendant Featherston taken Juan’s vitals during the second contact, they would have discovered that he needed medical care due to the brain bleed he was experiencing, which would have altered his blood pressure and pulse.
  • However, Defendant Boeckel and Defendant Featherston provided no care to Juan during this second encounter, simply relying on information gathered at a prior encounter in the night which was not indicative of the condition Juan was in at the time.
  • Defendant Beck and Defendant Brown then, with the help of DFR #8 personnel, lifted Juan’s limp body and placed him into the back of Defendant Beck’s police car.
  • Defendant Beck took Juan to the CDC to book him on warrants he had for some outstanding tickets.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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