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Parents Say Jailers’ Denial of Meds Killed Son

GALVESTON, Texas (CN) - Galveston County jailers killed an inmate by taking away his anti-anxiety medication, and then putting him in solitary confinement after he suffered two withdrawal seizures, his parents claim in court.

Jesse Jacobs reported to Galveston County Jail on March 6, 2015, to serve a 30-day DUI sentence with a full supply of Alprazolam, which he'd taken for 10 years to treat his severe anxiety.

He also had a letter with him from his doctor, stating it was "imperative" that he take the drug, according to the wrongful death suit filed in Galveston Federal Court on March 14.

Xanax is the top-selling brand of Alprazolam. It is a benzodiazepine, a class of psychoactive drugs prescribed for panic and anxiety that includes Valium.

Jesse and Diana Jacobs sued Galveston County, Sheriff Henry Trochesett and 20 John Doe jailers, contending their son died because of Trochesett's misguided policy.

The sheriff encouraged his staff to detox all inmates who had been prescribed Alprazolam, and discouraged them from calling 911, knowing the prisoner would be racked by withdraws with nowhere to go since the jail has no infirmary, the Jacobs say.

Accompanied by their lawyers and several family members, the couple announced the lawsuit Monday during a news conference in downtown Houston, an hour northwest of Galveston.

Jacobs' mother held a framed picture of him while his father told reporters they want the county change its policies to prevent more inmate deaths.

Jacobs, 32, had all his medical needs in order when he turned himself in, his parents say in the lawsuit.

Jacobs had prescriptions for Alprazolam and high blood pressure medicine, filled prescription bottles and a doctor's note with him when he arrived at the jail, his parents say.

But the EMT who screened Jacobs told his mother and a lawyer who had accompanied him to the jail, that he wouldn't be given Alprazolam, the family says.

"Instead Galveston County staff and Galveston County medical personnel, initiated an unspecified detox protocol," the complaint states.

"Within hours of the detox protocol, Jacobs began manifesting symptoms of acute benzodiazepine withdrawal and his blood pressure soared."

Four days after he entered the jail, Jacobs suffered his first-ever seizure, a well-known side effect of anti-anxiety pill cessation, the Jacobs says.

Jailers revived him with smelling salts, gave him Gatorade and water, but did not take him to the hospital, his parents say.

The next day, Jacobs had another seizure and jailers found him lying on the floor "with so much blood covering face that initially the origination point was unclear, it was determined he had bit his tongue during seizure," the lawsuit states.

His parents say after he came to, he told the staff he had never seized prior to his lockup. Instead of taking him to the hospital, the staff moved him to "full suicide protocol (FSP), also known as solitary confinement," the Jacobs claim.

The jail also uses these suicide-watch cells to punish inmates, the family claims. They don't have a toilet, sink or shower, just a drain in the floor.

"Jesse C. Jacobs was left in this FSP cell with only a mattress, and a smock," the lawsuit states.

His withdrawals became more severe with heavy sweating, urination, diarrhea, tremors, confusion and stroke-level blood pressure, his parents say.

After a third seizure, his parents say, a doctor finally saw him, but she didn't contact his longtime doctor. She called another physician who advised putting him on Librium, another benzodiazepine, to control his seizures, the family says.

The new drug did no good, the parents say, and Jacobs had his fourth seizure the following night.

Jailers found him the next morning "unresponsive, drooling, and without a pulse" on a mattress covered in feces, his parents say.

"The Galveston County Medical Examiner determined Jesse Jacobs' cause of death to be 'abrupt discontinuation of long term Alprazolam medication,'" the complaint states. "Galveston Sheriff Trochesset claimed Jacob's death was due to 'natural causes.'"

The Jacobs are seeking $25 million in compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death, civil rights and Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

They are represented by U.A. Lewis in Houston.

Galveston County's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

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