BLUEFIELD – The city of Bluefield has agreed to settle a civil rights suit brought against it for an inmate’s death.
U.S. District Judge David A. Faber on April 19 placed Wanda L. Yokosuk’s suit against the city on the inactive docket a day after James Lamp, an attorney with the Huntington law firm of Lamp, Bartram, Levy, Trautwein and Perry, announced the sides reached a settlement. The terms were not disclosed.
When contacted, Charles “Rusty” Webb, Yokosuk’s co-counsel, said he could not disclose the terms due to a confidentiality agreement, and Chip Williams, the attorney retained by the city’s insurance carrier, did not return a phone call by presstime.
In her suit filed last year, Yokosuk, 51 and a Bluefield resident, alleges police officers treated her grandson, Stephen Z. Yokosuk Testerman, 21, with “deliberate indifference” during his incarceration in the city jail on Nov. 18-19, 2010. Doing so, she said, led to his untimely death.
According to the suit, Stephen passed out in his car in the parking lot of the Bluefield McDonald’s around 4 p.m. on Nov. 18. Later that evening, an employee alerted a Bluefield police officer to his condition.
Instead of calling for medical assistance, Wanda alleges police arrested Stephen and charged him with public intoxication. Shortly thereafter, he was allegedly processed and booked at the Bluefield police station despite remaining “in such a state that it was difficult to keep him awake.”
According to the suit, after he was booked and processed Stephen was placed in a jail cell “where he did not move or respond for the rest of the evening or the next morning.” Though other inmates found him unresponsive, but breathing, Wanda alleges nobody at the jail checked on him that night.
Sometime the morning of Nov. 19, inmates informed police that Stephen had not moved the entire night. The response by police, Wanda said, was that Stephen was “a drunk and just sleeping it off.”
However, about two hours after breakfast was served, Stephen was declared dead. An autopsy later determined he died as a result of “blood clots in his lungs which travelled up from his legs all of which were caused by him being in a state where he did not move for several hours,” the suit says
According to the suit, no alcohol was found in his system.
In her suit, Yokosuk asked that not only Stephen’s estate be awarded damages for violations of, among other things, his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, but also the city be required to implement better training of its police officers.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 12-cv-229