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Macomb County Jail inmate suicide sparks lawsuit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
Dieter Herriges-Love died at the facility in July 2017.

The family of a man who committed suicide in the Macomb County Jail claims officials there inadequately handle inmates with mental health issues and failed to prevent his death.

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, when Dieter Herriges-Love died two years ago, he was the third suicide by hanging at the Mount Clemens facility in less than three months.

“From at least 2001 through July 26, 2017, Macomb County was indisputably aware that dozens of pretrial detainees attempted and completed suicide by slipping their bed sheets through the holes in their bunk beds, yet Macomb County deliberately failed to repair the holes or provide thicker bed sheets so as to prevent similar incidents from occurring,” the filing read.

The lawsuit alleges staffers knew Herriges-Love had received psychiatric care and was on medication but did not refer him for a suicide risk assessment following an arrest.

Employees did not place him on suicide watch or alert detention personnel about his severe withdrawal from stopping the use of drugs and alcohol, according to the lawsuit.

Herriges-Love received no medical attention or medication to treat his symptoms for about 10 days. Inmates reported hearing him speak about suicide, but jail officials “recklessly ignored his mental health needs,” lawyer Trevor Garrison wrote in the filing.

Deputies did not properly perform a welfare check the morning Herriges-Love died, the court filing said.

“Despite possessing the authority and means to remedy the unconstitutional treatment of Dieter, the defendants were deliberately indifferent to said treatment and knowingly and recklessly failed to take immediate action which would have ensured Dieter’s safety and prevented his injuries and death,” the lawsuit said.

Lawyers for his family also accuse county officials of failing to provide adequate policies, procedures or training.

The suit seeks a trial and at least $75,000 in damages.

Reached Monday, a spokeswoman with the sheriff's office referred questions to the county corporation counsel, John Schapka.

In an email, he said Herriges-Love "chose to take his own life for reasons known only to himself.  He did so without sharing those reasons with anyone, he did so without first communicating his intentions to others, and he did so without drawing anyone's attention."

The case is among several that have targeted jail operations.

Last year, the son of a Detroit man who died after being held at the facility sued in federal court, saying the county and several jail employees ignored his father’s health issues.

Another lawsuit claims 37-year-old Jennifer Meyers died at the jail from sepsis in 2013.

Jessica Preston sued last year, alleging jail staff ignored her when she went into labor while being held for driving on a suspended license in 2016. The lawsuit says Preston delivered her son, Elijah, on a filthy cell floor in Mount Clemens after pleas to be hospitalized.

Macomb County has denied that Preston’s rights were violated.

In 2016, federal prosecutors declined to file criminal or civil charges in the death of David Stojcevski after serious withdrawals from drug use while serving a 30-day sentence for careless driving. The prosecutors said the evidence didn’t support a federal civil rights prosecution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.