Worthy charges 3 in Westland jail death
The Wayne County prosecutor on Monday charged one police officer and two paramedics in the death of a man who was being held in the Westland city jail last December.
Sgt. Ronald Buckley, 54, and paramedics Matthew Dicosola, 50, and Leah Maynard, 36, are charged with involuntary manslaughter — failure to perform a legal duty, a 15-year felony, as well as misconduct in office, also a felony.
Police say William Marshall, 36, had been arrested for a driving offense and drug possession. Family members say police ignored his medical problems before he died of cocaine toxicity Dec. 10, 2017.
“It is alleged that Marshall’s death was directly caused by the defendants’ failure to perform a duty, and that this failure was grossly negligent to human life,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said during a press conference.
Worthy said the paramedics denied Marshall medical treatment after the victim requested it. Buckley decided to keep Marshall in jail rather than letting the paramedics take him to the hospital, and also failed to monitor him, Worthy said.
Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik apologized to Marshall's family and said the officer has been suspended pending a department investigation.
"We will provide the police union the necessary notice of our intention to conduct and finalize our investigation into this matter," Jedrusik said in a statement. "After the investigation, we will take the necessary discipline up to and including termination of the officer."
Jedrusik also said the department has implemented changes to its policies and procedures and provided additional training to employees "to ensure that something like this never happens again."
Marshall was arrested at 6:28 a.m. Dec. 10 for cocaine and marijuana possession at a traffic stop, Worthy said.
Police noted a “white powdered substance" on the side of his mouth, but Marshall said it was from a doughnut and denied having used drugs. Police say he spoke and walked “normally” during the stop.
About 10 minutes later, going into the jail, "(Marshall) did not report any medical issues and appeared to be in good health,” Worthy said.
But a little more than an hour later, at 7:51 a.m., Marshall "began convulsing, having muscle spasms and was unable to walk.”
Other inmates in the jail asked for officials to help Marshall, Worthy said. Buckley, a jail commander, called EMS.
Paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later and found Marshall on the floor of the cell and dragged him from the cell to the hallway, Worthy said.
Worthy alleges that “neither paramedic took vital signs ... performed a medical assessment or medically intervened in any manner.”
Minutes later, Marshall was placed back in his cell, still convulsing, and an inmate tried to assist him, Worthy said.
Worthy says one paramedic suggested transporting Marshall to the hospital, in case he had swallowed something, but in the end “concluded he was not having a seizure.”
Buckley then allegedly dismissed the paramedics, about 8:10 a.m., and allegedly ignored Marshall’s convulsions almost 20 minutes later.
By 9:17 a.m., Marshall was motionless, and 10 minutes later, after Buckley saw him like this, the sergeant had another officer drag him from his cell to the hall, where they administered CPR and used a defibrillator, Worthy said.
By 9:40 a.m., the paramedics returned, and he was pronounced dead after being transported to an area hospital.
Asked whether the paramedics were in position to contradict a police officer, Worthy said the two “(had) a duty, regardless of what any police officer says,” to render aid.
“We feel they’re criminally responsible,” Worthy added.
Judge Ronald W. Lowe of 35th District Court has been assigned to hear the case.
The death of Frank Porter
Worthy on Monday also declined to issue charges in a separate case out of Ecorse, where a man died while in police custody in June 2017.
Frank Porter’s stay at the Ecorse jail was set in motion when he walked away from a rehab facility in Petoskey on June 6, 2017.
Three days later, at 9 p.m. on June 9, police received a 911 call after Porter was spotted asleep behind the wheel of his wife’s vehicle at a gas station on the 100 block of Southfield Road in Ecorse.
Police arrived to find him “awake, sniffling and sitting up in the car,” Worthy said. No drugs were found in the vehicle, though. Porter said he’d drank a few beers and was tired.
Officers ran Porter’s name through law enforcement databases and found two warrants: a misdemeanor from Lincoln Park and a felony from Emmet County in northern Michigan. They arrested Porter after learning of the warrants.
By 11:02 p.m., Porter was booked into a cell at Ecorse city jail, by himself, Worthy said. Inmates at Ecorse city jail are to be checked on every 30 minutes, whether by video or in person, she said.
By 11:24, video from the cell shows Porter sitting down, head in hands, looking at the floor. He would never move again.
The next morning at 7 a.m., an officer served breakfast to the inmates — a bun and a glass of water. When that same officer delivered lunch, about 2:25 p.m., Porter was found in the same position as earlier.
The officer took a closer look and found Porter had been dead for more than 15 hours, Worthy said.
The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office ruled heroin and fentanyl toxicity as the cause of death.
Worthy said she is not issuing charges in the case because her office's investigation revealed that police checked his mouth, nose and vehicle after suspecting drug use, and found no evidence.
When Porter was questioned directly, he denied using drugs and was able to speak and walk normally and follow commands.
“The officers should have noticed that Porter did not move in his cell,” Worthy said. “However... (the prosecutor’s office) has determined that the delay in finding Porter did not ultimately contribute to his death. These actions are not criminal, given the totality of the circumstances, and the warrant has been denied.”