JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The family of an inmate at the Duval County jail has hired an attorney to investigate whether Jacksonville Sheriff's Officers used excessive force.
John Laughon, 38, and four JSO corrections officers were transported to Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center in February after police said Laughon became violent inside the jail. When Laughon arrived at the hospital, he was not breathing and had to be resuscitated. He is now brain dead.
"We want answers," said attorney Sean Cronin. "We want to know exactly what happened."
Laughon was arrested in November 2004 for having more than 20 grams of marijuana in his possession. He pleaded guilty to the charges in January, when he began serving a six-month sentence before a string of fights with officers in a three-day period resulted in his current condition.
Cronin said Laughon's family is trying to determine if the JSO is responsible for Laughon's injuries.
"We are becoming more and more suspicious every day that foul play did, in fact, occur," Cronin said. "And once we have determined that, yes, we will be filing suit."
According to the police report, Laughon was taken to Shands for treatment of minor injuries, but Cronin and the victim's family said Laughon's injuries weren't minor. They told Channel 4's Casey Black that they have the pictures to prove it.
"When he arrived at the hospital, he had nine broken ribs on the back, not in the front," Cronin said. "(The injuries are) not consistent with any resuscitation that was done at the hospital."
Laughon was arrested three times in as many days while he was locked up in the custody of the JSO. He was first arrested for allegedly punching an officer three times in the face. The second time, he allegedly spit on and hit an officer. In the fight that sent him to the hospital, Laughon allegedly pinned an officer to the ground and started punching him.
His family said Laughon had a history of seizures that caused violent behavior. An internal JSO document states that police knew of his condition and wrote down the medication he was taking to control it. However, family members said Laughon called them multiple times, saying he wasn't receiving his medication.
"I can only tell you that we have a very substantial medical component to the jail," said JSO Undersheriff Frank Mackesy, who cannot comment directly about the family's claim due to privacy acts. "It costs us millions of dollars a year, and the reason that they are there is to provide the proper medical treatment to prisoners who are in custody."
According to a nurse's note from Shands, when police brought Laughon in, he was "cold to the touch, cyanotic and pulseless."
Mackesy said Laughon was only being taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation.
"When they put him in the van, he was not experiencing any medical distress," Mackesy said. "When they got to the hospital and went to take him out, that's when they realized that he was in medical distress."