Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Grand jury rips jailers for ignoring teen as he died

A West Palm Beach grand jury declared "fundamentally and woefully inadequate" the medical care given to an 18-year-old who died after two head injuries he received at the county juvenile lockup were ignored for hours by guards, supervisors and the facility's superintendent.

Eric Perez, who was detained after being arrested with a small amount of marijuana, died in the early hours of July 9 after spending most of the prior night hallucinating, vomiting, soiling himself and seeking help from guards who ignored him. The grand jury's presentment said Eric had been dead for an hour before lockup corrections officers noticed he had passed away. An officer stationed outside his cell checked on him every 10 minutes without noticing his death.

"The only attempt to seek an outside medical opinion during the entire episode was two phone calls to the head nurse that went unanswered during the night," the presentment said. "The officers' response to Mr. Perez's hallucinations, instability and cries of pain were to simply observe him as he lay on the floor vomiting and defecating in his underwear. More effort was spent cleaning the floor around the youth than attending to his welfare."

Department of Juvenile Justice administrators said Friday they had received a copy of the report and "will carefully review its findings to determine if additional action is needed to ensure the safety of youth in our care."

"Since Eric Perez's death in July 2011, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has taken decisive steps to ensure such a tragedy from occurring again," DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters said in a written statement.

"Eric's death has motivated us at DJJ to ensure we have proper policies and procedures and that our employees are effectively trained to follow them," Walters said. "As DJJ's leader, I pledge my utmost efforts to continue reforming this agency until it becomes the nation's role model for juvenile justice administration."

She added: "Let me again express my profound sorrow and condolences to Eric's family for the pain and anguish caused by his loss."

Perez was being housed in module B-2 of the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center on July 9 at about 7:40 p.m. when he and other detainees were taken to a cafeteria for snacks. When the youths were finished eating, an ordinary search of the boys for contraband food turned into an episode of "horseplay," as officers laughed and joked with the youths they were searching, the report said.

Eric was "roughly tossed in the air, striking the wall and/or floor with his head and shoulder as he came down," the report said. Security video from that day showed Eric wobbly on his feet after he fell.

At about 1:30 a.m. that night, Eric began to hallucinate: His cellmate called guards after he heard Eric scream "It's going in my eye" and "Get it off me."

The guard called his supervisor for help, and both officers saw Eric staggering around his cell. The youth was so disoriented he had to "crawl" out of his cell. "It hurts," he screamed, referring to his head.

"Mr. Perez then rose to his feet, using the wall for balance, before he stumbled forward, fell and appeared to strike his head on the corner of a table," the report said. It was the second time Eric had struck his head that night.

At 2:22 that morning, Eric rolled off a mattress they had placed him on and vomited. He then defecated on himself, officers said. Despite the fact that Eric could not stand, "no attempt was made to call 911 or otherwise seek medical assistance," the report said.

Guards did make two calls to a lockup nurse, but the woman was not on call and did not return the messages, the report said.

One officer on duty that night told grand jurors that she overheard a supervisor say Eric "was faking, and he did not want to fill out extra paperwork."

Grand jury rips jailers for ignoring teen as he died 03/09/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 9, 2012 10:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  2. Forecast: Tampa Bay's first fall weekend brings scattered showers

    Weather

    It may officially be fall, but Tampa Bay won't have any cooler temperatures this weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Romano: The choice does not have to be poverty or gentrification

    Local Government

    The memories must be protected. The music and the lore, too.

    The owner of Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food is refusing to give the city information on the restaurant's sales as required by his contract to occupy the city-owned Manhattan Casino. The information is needed to calculate whether the nonprofit Urban Development Solutions, headed by Larry Newsome, owes the city more than the $3,000 monthly base rent.
  4. Tests show North Korea earthquake not caused by nuclear test

    World

    SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's weather agency said a magnitude 3.2 earthquake was detected in North Korea on Saturday close to where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, but it assessed the quake as natural.

    People watch a TV news program reporting North Korea's earthquake, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. South Korea's weather agency said an earthquake was detected in North Korea on Saturday around where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, but it assessed the quake as natural. The signs read " The weather agency said a magnitude 3.0 earthquake was detected in North Korea." [Associated Press]
  5. New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

    Locals play pool at a venue in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, four days after the 7.1 earthquake. The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week. [Associated Press]