Updated June 18, 2021 - 8:05 pm
An inmate who had been held in Henderson and Clark County jails died while in custody last year after authorities failed to provide him with medical and psychological care, a civil rights lawsuit filed this week in federal court alleges.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, lists the city of Henderson, its police department, Henderson police Chief Thedrick Andres, the Metropolitan Police Department and Sheriff Joe Lombardo among its defendants.
The action was filed on behalf of Michael Lewis, father of Kevin Lewis, who died in jail last year, and accuses the defendants of civil rights violations, wrongful death, negligence and failing to provide adequate training.
“It’s a very egregious case,” said Gerald Gillock, lawyer for Lewis’ father. “It’s horrible.”
The complaint alleges that Lewis, 34, died as a result of authorities failing to provide him medical and psychological care, despite his complaints of pain and people close to him notifying police that he was off his medications and needed to be stabilized at the VA Medical Center in North Las Vegas.
A Metro spokesman declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit. A Henderson spokeswoman said the city attorney’s office had not reviewed the allegations but would submit a response to the court later.
Henderson police arrested Lewis on April 7, 2020, on suspicion of domestic battery and coercion, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, the mother of Lewis’ girlfriend called police because he was having a “manic episode” and would not allow his girlfriend or their two children to leave their home.
After Lewis’ girlfriend did leave the home with the children, she told officers that Lewis had slapped her and that he had become more aggressive since he stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder two weeks earlier.
In her witness statement, the girlfriend’s mother wrote that Lewis needed to go to the VA hospital for evaluation.
One officer wrote in a report that Lewis “appeared delusional and was making several statements that did not make sense,” according to the lawsuit. Lewis made irrational statements and was unable to hold his attention, “which substantiated the fact that he was off his medications,” the officer wrote.
Instead of being taken to a hospital, Lewis was arrested and booked into the Henderson Detention Center, where he would spend a week and would display irrational behavior, according to the lawsuit.
“No medical screen was ever completed,” the lawsuit states. “At no time during his stay at the Henderson Detention Center was Kevin seen by a medical doctor, even though he was given shots and pills.”
When a nurse tried to take his blood pressure, he threw the equipment at a cell door, breaking it, according to the complaint.
After reportedly making suicidal threats in Henderson, he was taken to the Clark County Detention Center on April 14, 2020, and placed on suicide watch, according to the lawsuit.
“It is not clear why, but Kevin was placed in an isolated cell while at CCDC,” the lawsuit states.
A Las Vegas police sergeant told Lewis’ parents that Lewis died April 15 from a ruptured ulcer, according to the lawsuit. At the time, Metro publicly said an inmate, later identified as Lewis, died after suffering an apparent medical episode.
The sergeant told them Lewis had complained of pain, was asking for specific drugs and that corrections officers thought he was engaging in drug-seeking behavior, the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, the sergeant told them Lewis was put in isolation to help him practice his coping skills.