Police never investigated Denver Health for inmate’s death, despite red flags
DENVER (KDVR) — Despite multiple witness statements about questionable medical care following the death of Denver inmate Leroy Taylor last year, a detective’s own report makes clear he never investigated medical staff for possible negligence.
Instead, the investigative report conducted by Denver Police Detective Louis Estrada stated at one point, “Detective Estrada advised Investigator Bolton that Detective Estrada was only investigating the incident pertaining to if the inmates had caused the death of Mr. Taylor.”
The 16-page report obtained by the Problem Solvers makes it clear no inmate was ever thought to have contributed to Taylor’s death. Instead, multiple inmates provided statements that they recognized Taylor was sick and needed more acute medical attention.
The police report mentions a sheriff’s deputy, who said, “Taylor seemed delirious, and the other inmates were helping Taylor when he needed to use the bathroom. He was approached by one of the inmates who stated this behavior was not normal and insisted that he (the deputy) talk to a nurse. A nurse happened to be walking in as several inmates were talking to him about Taylor. Nurse said that there was nothing that she could do.”
Oversight board focuses on man’s death
Taylor’s death on Feb. 9, 2022, is getting renewed attention after the Denver Citizen Oversight Board released its annual report this week, which cites some of FOX31’s previous reporting on Taylor’s death at the Downtown Detention Center.
The report states, “In general, there are disincentives for Denver Health to conduct thorough investigations or be transparent about their investigative findings. Such transparency may create liability risks as well as risks to their contract with the City and reputation with the public. However, this should not outweigh a full and fair assessment of the merits of any complaint against Denver Health’s medical personnel and the disclosure of the results of that assessment.”
Taylor was originally admitted to Denver Health Medical Center on Feb. 1, 2022, because of a suspected case of COVID-19. On Feb. 5, 2022, Taylor was sent back to the jail, although the citizen board’s report states Taylor would be sent to the jail’s medical ward five times — including twice on the day he died, Feb. 9.
Yet each time, Taylor was sent back to his pod.
One deputy interviewed by investigators stated that on Feb. 9, “At 5:00 a.m. the charge nurse promised to come and check on Taylor and never showed up. The deputy kept calling medical and they never came. They put Taylor in a wheelchair and wheeled him to the desk. He noticed Taylor’s arms, hands and feet were purple.”
The report, written by Detective Estrada states that on Feb. 9, a deputy noticed at around 10:20 a.m., “Taylor’s hands and feet were blue and inmates in 5D felt that Taylor needed more care than was being given.”
Yet at 1:15 p.m., that afternoon, the deputy recounted, “She spoke to Charge Nurse again regarding inmate Taylor. Charge Nurse stated there was nothing wrong with him (Taylor), and added he will only get morning and evening medication.”
Denver Sheriff’s deputies would repeatedly be rebuffed by nurses, with one stating, “Inmate Taylor appeared to be physically weak, seemed like he had breathing difficulties, and could barely walk. The fifth-floor nurse told Deputy that she already checked on Taylor early on, and there was not much she could do for him.”
A Denver sheriff’s sergeant then spoke to the night charge nurse, who “informed her that inmate Taylor was cleared by Doctor yesterday, that he (Taylor) was seeking to stay in 3MED.”
One inmate would later tell investigators that Leroy Taylor didn’t like to go to the medical ward “because they didn’t take him seriously down in medical. Mr. Taylor described to him how he was treated poorly when he did go to medical.”
‘It is unbelievable and it’s inexcusable’
The day before Taylor died, he called his sister Sandra and “told her he was having difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, and thought he needed to go to the hospital.”
The police report then states, “About 45 minutes after the call, Sandra called the DSD (Denver Sheriff Department) regarding Leroy’s health and him being treated for his conditions. Sometime after 6:00 p.m. that same day, Sandra went to DDC (Downtown Detention Center) spoke to deputies and expressed her concerns regarding Leroy because she felt nothing was being done.”
The next day, Taylor would die after paramedics were called to his cell around 4:15 p.m. — less than three hours after the medical staff had sent him back to his pod.
“It is unbelievable and it’s inexcusable,” said Nick Lutz, an attorney who represents the Taylor family.
While the autopsy report stated Taylor died of natural causes from heart disease and tested negative for COVID-19, it offered no opinion as to whether Taylor might have lived had he been transported to a hospital days earlier.
“I believe that he could have been saved,” said Lutz, who added the Citizen Oversight Board’s annual report identified a dysfunctional relationship between the Denver Sheriff Department, which operates the Downtown Detention Center, and Denver Health, which is contracted to provide inmate medical care.
The executive director of Denver’s Department of Public Safety told the Citizen Oversight Board that Denver Health never wrote an investigative report of its own and would not be providing any internal report about Taylor’s death, either to the sheriff’s department or the public safety department.
“Fundamentally, the entire contract needs to be reassessed. And we as a city need to figure out what accountability measures we can put in place to ensure that folks are taken care of and that emergency medical situations cannot be ignored or swept under the rug,” Lutz said.
The charge nurse who repeatedly sent Taylor back to his pod was placed on leave Feb. 15, 2022, by Denver Health and the Denver Sheriff Department. The Problem Solvers later learned her employment ended a month later, on March 14, 2022, but Denver Health will not say if the nurse quit or was fired.
The doctor who saw Taylor and cleared him to return to his jail pod remains employed with Denver Health.
Denver Health, Denver sheriff release statements
In a statement shared with FOX31, Denver Health said:
“The Denver Health care team at the Denver County jails strives to provide the best possible care. Any in-custody death is difficult, and we have sincere sympathy for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one. The circumstances of each death are reviewed, and we are committed to ongoing efforts to improve processes and care.
Similar to other patient populations, Denver County inmates suffer from conditions that are increasingly advanced and complex. Working in coordination with the Sheriff’s Department and drawing on our status as a fully integrated health care system, Denver Health offers comprehensive care including mental health services, continuity of care support and care for substance use disorders.
Consistent with our practice and with HIPAA, Denver Health will not comment on the treatment or condition. Nevertheless, we encourage diligence in ensuring that conclusions drawn or shared are based on information which is factual and accurate.
We recognize the work of the Citizen Oversight Board and the vital role it has in our community. We remain committed to providing comprehensive care services in the jail in partnership with the Denver Sheriff’s Department.”
The Denver Sheriff Department also shared a statement with FOX31:
“We respect the opinion of the Citizen Oversight Board and believe we have appropriate checks and balances relative to the Denver Health contract. This year we are onboarding a medical liaison who will work directly with the Sheriff to oversee the Denver Health contract and ensure compliance.”
DENVER SHERIFF DEPARTMENT
The Taylor family has yet to file a lawsuit through their attorney. Nick Lutz told the Problem Solvers that could happen later this year.
Under Colorado law, Denver Health would not have to pay more than $424,000 to the Taylor family if a jury were to find negligence because the hospital, as a quasi-government agency, is covered by government immunity.
The Problem Solvers asked the Denver Police Department why its detective determined “there is no evidence of a crime” based only on investigating the role of inmates but not the role of deputies or medical staff.
In an email, a department spokesman wrote, “We are looking into this and will get back to you as soon as we can.”
Both the police report and body camera video reviewed by FOX31 make it clear deputies had to remove some 60 inmates from the area as paramedics transported an unconscious Taylor because deputies were afraid of a potential riot.
One inmate can be seen on body camera video yelling, “You guys should have taken him to the hospital five days ago when he had a 105-degree temperature. You killed him.”
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