Family of man who died of drug overdose in jail sues Boston PD

Shayne Stilphen was a young man in need of medical help when he died in a Boston Police Department lockup in 2019.Now his family and the American Civil Liberties Union are taking legal action, filing a civil lawsuit saying he died alone in a jail cell from a preventable overdose and his rights were violated by the Boston Police.The 5 Investigates news team broke this story in 2019, exposing the failures in the system and hours of video showing Stilphen was in need of help but ignored instead.Stilphen struggled with substance use disorder for years. The lawsuit, filed by his mother as administrator of her son’s estate, asserts that he was discriminated against by police because of his disease.The video obtained by 5 Investigates shows Stilphen, 28, unsteady on his feet, at times slumping over and an officer repeatedly helping him stand as he’s booked at the Boston Police Department’s South End station on July 14, 2019.Stilphen had left a detox facility the day before and was arrested for allegedly breaking into a car. The last few hours of his life unfolded inside his jail cell. It is an unbearable scene for his mother Lynnel Cox, who we spoke with a few months after her son’s death.”The six Boston police officers that were working that night, that were in his presence, had the opportunity to save his life and they just dismissed him,” Cox said.The video will likely take center stage in the civil suit naming the Boston Police and five officers who interacted with Stilphen that morning.That police station is near the epicenter of Boston’s opioid epidemic, the streets where many struggling with substance use disorder live.The lawsuit claims Boston Police haven’t properly trained officers to recognize or treat signs of drug intoxication or overdose, didn’t properly supervise and investigate officers who violated Stilphen’s rights and that officers are acclimated to disregarding the medical needs of people using drugs.”This case is about ensuring that when people are held in police custody, their constitutional rights and their statutory rights are respected and t hey get the medical care that they need,” said Jessie Rossman, one of the ACLU lawyers representing the Stilphen family.Within minutes of being alone in his cell, Stilphen grabbed drugs from his shorts and ingested them. Video shows officers walking by for routine checks. Stilphen didn’t move from this position from 4:50 am until he was found unresponsive an hour later.You can also see officers pass by him 10 times but only appear to look into his cell three times.According to the lawsuit, Boston Police policy does not require officers to actually look into the cells. Finally, one officer kicked the cell door after noticing Shayne in an uncomfortable position and he called for help. Despite multiple doses of Narcan and CPR, it was too late. His mother said it is obvious her son was in crisis and needed help.”Anybody, never mind being a police officer having training, would know that, even if you didn’t have an understanding of addiction,” Cox said. Stilphen was one of three men who died in police custody at that same station that summer. Two of them overdosed. The Boston Police had no comment on the case, citing pending litigation. The District Attorney’s office found no criminal wrongdoing by police.

Shayne Stilphen was a young man in need of medical help when he died in a Boston Police Department lockup in 2019.

Now his family and the American Civil Liberties Union are taking legal action, filing a civil law suit saying he died alone in a jail cell from a preventable overdose and his rights were violated by the Boston Police.

The 5 Investigates news team broke this story in 2019, exposing the failures in the system and hours of video showing Stilphen was in need of help but ignored instead.

WCVB

Shayne Stilphen in jail cell

Stilphen struggled with substance use disorder for years. The lawsuit, filed by his mother as administrator of her son’s estate, asserts that he was discriminated against by the police because of his illness.

The video obtained by 5 Investigates shows Stilphen, 28, unsteady on his feet, at times slumping over and an officer repeatedly helping him stand as he’s booked at the Boston Police Department’s South End station on July 14, 2019.

Stilphen had left a detox facility the day before and was arrested for allegedly breaking into a car. The last few hours of his life unfolded inside his jail cell. It is an unbearable scene for his mother Lynnel Cox, who we spoke with a few months after her son’s death.

“The six Boston police officers that were working that night, that were in his presence, had the opportunity to save his life and they just dismissed him,” Cox said.

The video will likely take center stage in the civil suit naming the Boston Police and five officers who interacted with Stilphen that morning.

Family of man who died of drug overdose in jail cell sues Boston Police

WCVB

Lynnel Cox, Shayne’s mother

That police station is near the epicenter of Boston’s opioid epidemic, the streets where many struggling with substance use disorder live.

The lawsuit claims Boston Police haven’t properly trained officers to recognize or treat signs of drug intoxication or overdose, didn’t properly supervise and investigate officers who violated Stilphen’s rights and that officers are acclimated to disregarding the medical needs of people using drugs.

“This case is about ensuring that when people are held in police custody, their constitutional rights and their statutory rights are respected and they get the medical care that they need,” said Jessie Rossman, one of the ACLU lawyers representing the Stilphen family.

Within minutes of being alone in his cell, Stilphen grabbed drugs from his shorts and ingested them. Video shows officers walking by for routine checks. Stilphen didn’t move from this position from 4:50 am until he was found unresponsive an hour later.

You can also see officers pass by him 10 times but only appear to look into his cell three times.

According to the lawsuit, Boston Police policy does not require officers to actually look into the cells.

Family of man who died of drug overdose in jail cell sues Boston Police

Finally, one officer kicked the cell door after noticing Shayne in an uncomfortable position and he called for help. Despite multiple doses of Narcan and CPR, it was too late.

His mother said it is obvious her son was in crisis and needed help.

“Anybody, never mind being a police officer having training, would know that, even if you didn’t have an understanding of addiction,” Cox said.

Stilphen was one of three men who died in police custody at that same station that summer. Two of them overdosed.

The Boston Police had no comment on the case, citing pending litigation. The District Attorney’s office found no criminal wrongdoing by police.

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