When a paramedic from Northeast Fire Protection District went to the Pine Lawn jail last September to check out an inmate with abdominal pain and bleeding, he told police officers and jailers the inmate needed to go the emergency room, according to his report.
The paramedic wrote that a police officer had started paperwork for the release and the inmate had changed into his street clothes to get ready to board the ambulance. But then a police supervisor canceled the release. The inmate, Bernard Scott, 44, who was being held in lieu of $360 bail for traffic cases, was ordered to change back into his jumpsuit and led back to a holding cell.
Before leaving the station, the paramedic tried one more time.
“PD again advised by EMS that pt should be transferred to ED for further medical attention,” his report said. But the answer was still no.
Just 14 minutes later, the jail had to call another ambulance. Now Scott was unconscious, his muscles stiff. He was aggressive, difficult to pin down and his posture indicated possible brain damage, an EMT’s report said.
Police officers disclosed five minutes after the second ambulance arrived that they had found Scott hanging by his neck from a shoelace tied to his cell door.
The details of the response at the jail were revealed in public records obtained by the Post-Dispatch this week through a Sunshine Law request. The incident is another example of dysfunction in St. Louis County’s small jails and police departments. Unlike about 30 other states, Missouri has no jail standards or state authority to force improvements. And there is no tracking of jail suicides or suicide attempts.
Scott survived. In an interview on Thursday, Scott said he was in a coma for more than 11 days and hospitalized almost three weeks. He said he doesn’t remember trying to hang himself and doesn’t think he would do that.
“Why would I hang myself?” he asked. “I was in on traffic tickets.”
The incident in scandal-plagued Pine Lawn led to an internal review that went nowhere. Police officers and jail workers submitted statements that contradicted each other and the paramedic’s report. An examination of available public records by a Post-Dispatch reporter found no documented effort to sort out discrepancies.