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Six jail deputies reprimanded in prisoner's death

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Lobato waited hours in vain for medical attention

By Ramsey Scott

The Jeffco Sheriff’s Office has reprimanded six jail deputies after an investigation into the March death of Jennifer Lobato, who died in her cell after waiting hours in vain for medical attention. 

Sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said the six deputies were given written reprimands for their actions or lack of action. Lobato died March 2, a day after being booked into the jail on a shoplifting charge. 

“All six deputies were disciplined for misconduct and performance or failure to perform and received written reprimands,” Kelley said. “Not all six deputies were involved in the exact same way. Each one was looked at independently based on actions or inactions.”

Kelley said a written reprimand remains part of the employee’s permanent file and might require additional training. 

Jeffco Sheriff Jeff Shrader said the written reprimands would be considered when any of the six deputies apply for a promotion or a transfer to another division within the Sheriff’s Office. 

“It may lead to a decision that they're not ready for an assignment or promotion at that point in time,” Shrader said. “It would be examined in light of other discipline measures that may have been taken recently or in the past.”

Shrader said the goal of discipline is to correct the behavior of a deputy and to educate other employees. The commanders in charge of the investigation could have recommended more severe punishments but decided they were not warranted in this case. 

“There’s a caution to not discipline based upon the outcome of the incident but based upon the actions or inactions of employees,” Shrader said. “One of the things I do want to point out is when Ms. Lobato was brought into the jail, she did not disclose that there was a withdrawal or a likely withdrawal (from drugs). 

"That creates an information gap that the deputies and the medical staff had no idea about. It was some 10 hours (after booking) when there was a first indication there was some sort of withdrawal.”

All six deputies are still working at the jail, but some have been transferred to other parts of the detention center from the area where Lobato was housed. 

Kelley said the jail also has instituted several policy changes to prevent similar deaths in the future, including stepped-up requirements for record-keeping and improved communication between deputies and the medical staff.

Lobato first complained about feeling ill on the morning of March 2 before being taken to court for advisement on the charges she faced. Despite repeated requests by Lobato and other inmates that Lobato be given medical attention, she was not seen by the jail's medical staff. Lobato died in her cell about 7:15 p.m. 

An autopsy report showed the cause of death as “cardiac arrest, due to probable electrolyte abnormalities, due to repeated vomiting.” It said the vomiting could have been caused by drug withdrawal or an illness.

An investigation into Lobato's death by the Sheriff's Office, a copy of which was obtained by the Courier through an open-records request, quoted inmates as saying that jail deputies were dismissive when told of Lobato's need for medical attention. 

One reportedly said to Lobato's cellmate: "That's why we don't do drugs."

The deputy said the remark was made as part of a teaching moment and was not meant as "vicious or joking."

Last year, a former jail prisoner, Ken McGill, was awarded $11 million in U.S. District Court after suffering a stroke while in the jail in 2012 and not receiving medical attention for more than 16 hours. The ruling was against Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc., the company that then provided medical services to the jail. 

Correctional Healthcare was purchased by Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions in 2014. Correct Care Solutions continues to provide medical care at the jail.

Lobato’s was the third death at the Jeffco jail since 2013. Two inmates, one in 2014 and one in 2013, committed suicide while in custody.