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Family releases video of jail death

Family releases video of jail death

Lawsuit filed against nurse, jail management company over death of diabetic woman

November 3rd, 2016 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News
Morgan Angerbauer

Morgan Angerbauer

Photo by Submitted photo

The parents of a 20-year-old, insulin-dependent diabetic who perished July 1 in a medical observation cell at the Bi-State Justice Building jail hope their daughter's death will bring change.

Morgan Angerbauer's parents, Andy and Jennifer Houser, released video Wednesday of their daughter's final hour of life. Their lawyer, Matthew Campbell of Little Rock, provided documents related to the investigation, which show inconsistencies between the video and an internal investigation report by LaSalle Corrections, a private company that manages the jail.

The time stamp on the jail recording shows that at 4:13 a.m. licensed vocational nurse Brittany Johnson, who admits she refused to check Angerbauer's blood sugar the evening before, enters the medical observation cell about 20 feet from the nurse's station. Roughly 17 and a half hours have passed since Angerbauer's blood sugar was last checked. An email from Robert Page, who is warden of Bi-State jail and an employee of LaSalle, states that Johnson and a correctional officer are inside Angerbauer's cell at 4:45 a.m.

The last dose of insulin Angerbauer received was administered at 5:30 a.m. June 30 by Johnson, according to a probable cause affidavit. A different nurse, Tiffany Venable, records that Angerbauer's sugar is 74, within the low to normal range of 70 to 110, when it is checked at 10:30 a.m. the same day. Venable then notes at 4:30 p.m. June 30 that Angerbauer refused to have her sugar checked. A refusal is documented when an inmate "doesn't show" for "pill call," regardless of whether the inmate is asleep or incapacitated, the affidavit states.

Shortly after 5 p.m. June 30, Angerbauer tells Johnson she is ready for a medical check.

"Johnson also admitted that she was fully aware of the severity of Angerbauer's medical diabetic situation, but rather than treat her, she told her that things don't work that way, if you miss your medical call you have to wait until it's time for your next medical call," the affidavit states. "Johnson told investigators that if she allowed all offenders to do that, she'd never get anything done."

Angerbauer pleaded for help throughout the night. Documents outlining interviews with jail staff state Angerbauer quit yelling between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Dustin Standridge, the officer assigned to monitor Angerbauer's pod, reportedly told investigators that he thought the diabetic was "just mad."

"He stated that he was not going to make any excuses and that he was obviously not doing his checks like he was supposed to have been," a TAPD report states.

Standridge told a TAPD investigator he filled in information in a log book reporting he had completed certain tasks at certain times before those times actually passed. Standridge allegedly blamed short staffing for his conduct.

Video shows Angerbauer is collapsed in her cell and unresponsive when Johnson peeks through a glass panel at her at 4:12 a.m. July 1. Angerbauer has received no insulin in nearly 23 hours. A puddle of what appears to be vomit is visible on the floor. In the soundless video, Johnson appears to yell at Angerbauer, turns the lights off and on, and knocks on the glass. A minute later, a correctional officer opens the door for Johnson, who walks in holding a folder. Angerbauer doesn't move when Johnson shakes her.

Johnson leaves the cell and returns at 4:15 a.m. with a large blood pressure cuff and a glucose monitor. Correctional officers stand in the doorway and hallway. At least one tinkers with a cellphone.

After repeatedly trying unsuccessfully to acquire blood pressure or blood sugar readings, Johnson leaves the cell at 4:29 a.m. and returns at 4:30 a.m. with a tube of glucose—pure sugar—she squirts into Angerbauer's mouth, the video shows. At that time, Angerbauer had not received insulin for 23 hours, according to the affidavit. A correctional officer is supporting Angerbauer, who appears to slip further into an unconscious state.

At 4:37 a.m., Angerbauer's body is listless, her legs askew, head back, mouth open. A correctional officer standing in the doorway appears to be text messaging or filming with a cellphone as Johnson attempts repeatedly to test Angerbauer's blood sugar. As she does, Angerbauer is limp and unresponsive. At 4:57 a.m. a female correctional officer with a handheld camera enters the cell. That officer told investigators she grabbed the camcorder after hearing Johnson call for someone to call 911 and bring a camera.

At 4:58 a.m., a correctional officer speaking on a white cordless phone stands in the doorway, a cellphone in his other hand. More than 45 minutes have passed since Johnson first discovered Angerbauer incoherent and unresponsive. However, Johnson told investigators she called for fellow staff to call 911 after being in Angerbauer's cell for 10 to 15 minutes, according to a TAPD report.

By the time paramedics enter Angerbauer's cell at 5:06 a.m., Johnson has started CPR and has used a portable defibrillator. Paramedics find no sign of life.

At 5:10 a.m., the paramedics are gone. Johnson scratches her head and closes Angerbauer's eyes. At 5:11 a.m., Johnson covers Angerbauer's body with an orange sheet and leaves the cell. Angerbauer's blood sugar level was measured at 813 at autopsy.

"It was the most excrutiating thing I've ever had to do in my life," Jennifer Houser said of watching the video of her daughter's death. "All of those people, all had cellphones. Not one of them thought to call 911."

Johnson has been charged with misdemeanor negligent homicide by Miller County, Ark., prosecutors in Angerbauer's death. Johnson has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial in February.

Angerbauer's parents have filed a federal lawsuit in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas with the help of Little Rock lawyer Matthew Campbell.

Campbell says the video shows a shocking disregard for Angerbauer's situation.

"Had they just taken her to the ER in the first 30 minutes, there is a good chance she would've lived," Campbell said. "They (jail staff) didn't follow their own procedures, and then they conducted an internal investigation they managed to finish up before breakfast."

In a LaSalle document titled Critical Incident Report and dated July 1, times given for the morning's events don't fit with the jail video. The report states Johnson entered Angerbauer's cell at 4:40 a.m., not 4:13 a.m. as shown on the video. The report states jail staff attempted to contact 911 at 5:06 a.m., the same time the video shows paramedics entering Angerbauer's cell. A copy of a handwritten statement Johnson wrote and signed states she entered Angerbauer's cell at 4:40 a.m., though the video shows she entered at 4:13 a.m. Johnson gives 5:07 a.m. as the time paramedics arrived, which closely coincides with the video time stamp of 5:06 a.m.

Angerbauer was booked into jail the afternoon of June 28 on a warrant stemming from administrative violations of probation she was serving for a nonviolent drug offense. Despite repeatedly high readings June 29 on a glucose monitor, some so high they exceeded the equipment's testing range, Angerbauer was not taken to a hospital. Campbell said he believes Angerbauer should have been taken to the hospital on June 29 after she had several sugar readings over 400 and 500, so she could receive treatment for ketoacidosis as well as for her high blood sugar.

The federal suit names Johnson; LaSalle Corrections; LaSalle owners and administrators; and Johnson's supervisor, registered nurse Regina Lynch. Also named are 20 John Doe and Jane Doe defendants meant to represent as yet unidentified jail employees who failed to call for emergency medical help.

The suit alleges wrongful death, negligence and civil rights violations.

None of the defendants have filed responses to the lawsuit.

"Her civil rights were stripped away the moment she entered that cell," Jennifer Houser said.

Houser said she hopes her daughter's death and its aftermath will cause the "prison for profit" system to take notice. Angerbauer and Michael Sabbie, an inmate who died after being pepper sprayed by Bi-State guards when he complained of breathing problems in July 2015, died less than a year apart under LaSalle management.

"We want to see things change in jails everywhere. Morgan had a family that loved her," Houser said. "This has to change. Nobody deserves to die like that."'

 

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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