Posted Jul. 15, 2014 @ 8:11 am
Updated at 8:40 AM

Three weeks before an inmate at West Valley Detention Center was reported dead Thursday from an apparent medical emergency, the family of an inmate who died there in June 2013 filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the jail, which they said ignored repeated calls for the inmate’s immediate medical attention.

The family of Ernesto Quintero is asking for an unspecified amount in punitive damages, including funeral and burial costs, according to the complaint filed in federal court June 20. Quintero, who had a history of heroin dependency, addiction to other drugs and asthma, died June 12, 2013 while in custody at the Rancho Cucamonga facility.

Maria Leal and Nicholas Quintero, named as personal representatives of Ernesto Quintero’s estate, contend he had been suffering symptoms of acute drug withdrawal while locked up and jail officials who were privy to his history failed to respond to requests from family and other inmates to treat him.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller on Monday said the department had been served with the suit, but she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

The day before he died, Quintero allegedly began exhibiting “severe and life-threatening signs and/or symptoms of acute drug withdrawal.” The next day, “others within his cell continued their calls and requests for immediate medical attention as plaintiff’s decedent lay on the floor motionless and unconscious,” the complaint said. Ultimately, a “code blue” was called and medical personnel began CPR while an ambulance was en route, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiff’s decedent remained unresponsive with no pulse and no respirations never thereafter showing any signs of life before being declared dead,” it said.

Meanwhile, sheriff’s officials are investigating Thursday’s death of an inmate found alone in a cell suffering from an apparent medical emergency. Deputies and medical staff treated the victim — whose name and cause of death has yet to be released — while emergency medical services were called to the scene. He was transported to Kaiser Fontana Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, authorities said.

The recent death and wrongful death suit draw further attention to a jail which since March has been the subject of allegations of civil rights abuses, spurring nearly-simultaneous probes by the sheriff’s department and FBI.

Spokespersons for the sheriff’s department and FBI on Monday both said that their investigations were ongoing.

“No charges filed at this time,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Three deputies have been fired. Four federal suits have been filed against the jail, certain deputies and — as overseers of the jail in their posts — jail commander Jeff Rose and top department official Sheriff John McMahon.

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