We filed a civil rights case against Essex County correctional officers after our clients’ son died of overdose in transport van

We represent the parents of Sam Dunn, a 29-year-old man who died of an opioid overdose while in an Essex County Sheriff’s Department transport van on January 7, 2016. Earlier this week, we filed a civil rights and wrongful death case alleging that two Essex County correctional officers ignored Mr. Dunn’s need for emergency medical treatment, resulting in his death.

We recommend this news story about the case by 5 Investigates.

Our case alleges that Essex County Officers Patrick Barry and John Nguyen were transporting Mr. Dunn to the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC) in Bridgewater, where a judge had ordered Mr. Dunn civilly committed for substance abuse treatment. The officers saw that Mr. Dunn “seemed to be under the influence of some type of drug or alcohol.” Earlier that day, Mr. Dunn had ingested opiates contained in fingers cut from a surgical glove. Video footage of Mr. Dunn from the Essex County Correctional Facility shows that shortly before he was placed in the transport van, he was struggling to stand and convulsing in apparent seizures.

Mr. Dunn spent the last five and a half hours of his life shackled in the back of the prisoner-transport van, unresponsive, and loudly struggling to breathe. Most of this time was spent in the parking lot outside MASAC, which had anti-overdose medication that would have saved Mr. Dunn’s life. Our case alleges that the officers ignored obvious signs that Mr. Dunn was overdosing and failed to follow policies requiring them to maintain constant visual observation of people in their custody and be alert to issues such as drug use and difficulty breathing.

When the officers finally checked on Mr. Dunn, he was unresponsive and his skin had turned blue. The officers summoned emergency medical help, but Mr. Dunn could not be revived. Had the officers gotten medical care for Mr. Dunn at almost any point during the eight and a half hours they were responsible for his care and custody, Mr. Dunn would have lived.

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