OC DA Says 'Clear!' in Inmate Heart Attack Death After Deputies Didn't Give Him His Heart Medication
Another week, another inmate death in the OC Jail system cleared by the Orange County District Attorney's office. In this case, the gone con is Jeffrey Johnson, who happened to suffer a fatal heart attack last December, on the very day prison guards didn't give the 49-year-old his heart medication.
Costa Mesa police arrested Johnson on September 22, 2013 for an outstanding warrant, finding eight baggies of meth on him. They booked Johnson at Orange County Jail for both the warrant and drug dealing--and that's where the OCDA's report starts.
According to them the inmate's poor heart health was no secret at the jail. When booked, Johnson told a nurse he took medication for high blood pressure. He also admitted to using a little meth two days prior to getting busted. A month later, the inmate complained to another nurse that he was suffering severe chest pains. A doctor treated Johnson, prescribed him three heart medications and cleared his return to jail.
On December 4, 2013, medical staff at the jail signed off on transferring Johnson to James A. Musick jail in Irvine. Johnson protested the move because of his heart problems, worried he'd skip doses of his medication in the move. A deputy allegedly said, "I don't give a fuck!" According to another inmate witness, a nurse didn't either, ignoring Johnson's pleas about not getting his meds.
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Shortly after arriving to Musick in the afternoon, Johnson slowly slumped face first to the ground. An ambulance took Johnson to Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, where he died.
An autopsy showed that Johnson had an enlarged heart and blocked arteries. The OCDA report claims that jail staff had no way of knowing the severity of his condition. While it doesn't dispute Johnson didn't get his medication the day of his death, it denies that played any role in his death.
"Futhermore, had Johnson been provided [the medication] before 4:30 p.m.," the report reads, "It would not have prevented the heart attack that ultimately caused his death."
The OCDA cleared Orange County Sheriff deputies and medical staff accordingly.
Read the investigation letter in its entirety online.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2
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