1. Archive

Sheriff's Office sued in jail death

The parents of a Pasco County Jail inmate who died of a heart attack after officials failed to treat him filed a $6-million lawsuit Monday against the Sheriff's Office.

Joseph Ingrassi was a 36-year-old prescription drug addict with a history of medical problems when he collapsed in his cell in the county's Land O'Lakes jail in March 1995.

Although five medically trained deputies responded at the cell, none attempted to give Ingrassi emergency treatment. One supervisor even told his subordinates that Ingrassi was faking, according to a retired deputy who spoke to the Times for a January profile of the incident.

Ingrassi's parents, Joseph and Ann Ingrassi, said they grieve daily for their son, who was awaiting placement in a long-term treatment center when he died.

"I go in his room and talk to him every day. I miss him terribly," Ann Ingrassi said. The two Holiday residents have an arrangement of yellow mums placed on the altar at St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church every month in his memory.

Sheriff's Office attorney Mike Randall said he couldn't comment because he hadn't seen the lawsuit.

In the days before he died March 31, Ingrassi repeatedly told various sheriff's officials that he felt he was dying, according to the lawsuit and an internal affairs report.

Although he was taking nine medications for a bad heart and other ailments and had coughed up blood, Ingrassi was never seen by the jail'sphysician _ just the physician's assistant, the lawsuit said.

After he collapsed about 1:30 a.m., deputies waited at least 15 minutes before calling paramedics, the report said. By the time they arrived, Ingrassi had been dead a long time, according to the report. The official cause of death was a heart attack brought on by pneumonia.

Two deputies were punished in the incident. One received a two-day suspension without pay, the other a five-day suspension without pay. Both were cited for not responding quickly enough to the situation.

Ann Ingrassi said the lawsuit is her way to get even.

"There's no money in the world to make it worth it," she said. "I would love for them to know how I feel."