SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - The mother of a mentally ill 20-year-old man who hanged himself in a Monterey County jail cell can advance her case against both the city and county, a federal judge ruled.
Silvia Guersenzvaig sued the Monterey, its police chief Philip Penko and officer Brent Hall, Monterey County, Sheriff Scott Miller and Sergeant E. Kaye and several other entities and individuals in federal court, for their involvement with her son Joshua Claypole in the days before his suicide.
Guersenzvaig says she raised Joshua in Big Sur, and that he began struggling with anxiety and bipolar disorders in high school. Joshua saw many therapists and doctors, including professionals at defendant Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, the complaint states.
A day later, officers in defendant San Mateo County arrested Joshua for suspicion of driving under the influence and impounded his car. He was booked into county jail in Redwood City, where staff took his medical history and prescribed him three drugs to treat his mental state. They released him hours later.
The next day, Joshua returned to another outpatient behavioral health clinic in Monterey that had treated him. Staff called police and he was ordered to leave - a scene that was repeated the following morning.
After being refused help, Guersenzvaig says Joshua ended up at a local Wells Fargo Bank branch. She says that bank staff noticed that Joshua "displayed mood changes, made strange movements with his head, and exhibited other unusual behavior" while he withdrew money.
After leaving the bank, Joshua caught a cab - and fatally stabbed the driver, Daniel Garcia Huerta.
Officers from the Seaside Police Department arrived and took custody of Joshua for a short time, before releasing him to defendant Hall with the Monterey Police Department. Guersenzvaig claims that Joshua asked Hall questions like, "Can you ask for lethal injections?" and "Is my mom going to get my remains?"
Joshua also told Hall that he "had to do it." Bu no one informed the Monterey County Sheriff's Department that Joshua was acting unusually when they took custody of the young man, according to the complaint.
Later that evening, Joshua's defense attorney met with him and requested that he be placed on suicide watch. But the intake officer never checked the required box indicating that Joshua posed a danger to himself or others, Guersenzvaig says.
In fact, the mother claims that an intake screening questionnaire completed that night indicated that Joshua had not shown any bizarre behavior and that he had not been under psychiatric care. Nor did it appear that he had been given any medical screening at all, and he was not placed on a suicide watch per his attorney's request.
Two days later, Joshua made his first court appearance and said he believed people were speaking to him telepathically. Officers at the jail finally put him on suicide watch, only to remove him from the safety cell 16 hours later.
Meanwhile, Guersenzvaig arrived to visit him and bring him his medication. Jail staff turned her away because it was not visiting hours, and never delivered the medication to Joshua.
And, according to the jail's hourly safety check log, no one checked on Joshua for six hours. When someone finally did, they found him hanging from a noose made of torn bed sheets that had been attached to a metal wall brace.