A Multnomah County inmate, who is now quadriplegic after jumping from a second-floor tier of the downtown Portland jail and landing head first, alleges the county and jail staff were negligent, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
Lawyers for Westley Wilson, 29, who was in custody in May on charges he violated a restraining order, say the jail failed to place Wilson on suicide watch or provide a secure environment since he was able to jump to his near-death.
The suit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, which seeks $12 million in damages, comes two years after the county recorded an increase in jail suicides and a grand jury report urged changes.
The sheriff’s office has installed suicide prevention bars on the upper level tiers of its two-level dorm. It also has provided eight-hour suicide prevention training to staff, and removed items in jail cells that might have enabled inmates to harm themselves, said sheriff’s chief deputy Mike Shults.
Wilson was on the lower level and apparently climbed up to the upper level railing and jumped, according to the sheriff’s office.
Attorney Greg Kafoury, of the Portland firm Kafoury and McDougal, said the sheriff’s office should have recognized Wilson was depressed and suffering a psychotic episode and placed him in a secure cell on suicide watch.
Wilson, arrested May 4, was transferred on May 10 from Inverness Jail to Multnomah County Detention Center. With his transfer, staff forwarded a handwritten note from the county’s Department of Corrections Health.
The note mentioned that he had been kept in a separate cell in Inverness, because he kept calling a sergeant “God.” A nurse found him seated on a bench, tearful and holding his head, and when she introduced herself, Wilson replied, “No you’re not. You are God!”
“His interaction indicated some unstable behavior and scheduling of mental health contact but no statements of suicidal thoughts,” according to a sheriff’s office report.
About 6:22 p.m. on May 10, during dinner service at the downtown jail, deputy Frank Newsome saw Wilson had climbed up a railing to the top tier and was facing foward. Newsome and other staff unsuccessfully tried to talk him down, a sheriff’s report said.
Shults said he could not comment on the specifics of the claim.
Attorney Greg Kafoury said the jail’s placement of Wilson with the general inmate population “was obviously flawed.” Wilson is being cared for at the Regency Gresham Nursing & Rehab Center.