By The Vanguard Staff
OAKLAND, CA – More than 150 guard body cam videos were made public here of a part-time security guard found dead in Santa Rita Jail after being arrested for not wearing a mask on a public bus and arguing with the driver—and unable to pay $2,500 cash bail that would have kept him out of jail.
Lawyers for the family of the Oakland man said he was “lying motionless and slowly dying for several days face down on his bunk…before guards and nurses decided he might need help. By then, it was too late.”
Oakland-based Lawyers For The People said it “spent two years fighting with Alameda County to release more than 150 videos taken by guards’ bodycams, after initial reports attributed Maurice Monk’s Nov. 15, 2021, death to a sudden heart attack.”
The lawyers, who have filed a lawsuit for the family, said videos show Monk, 45, “face down on his bunk motionless and unresponsive for at least three days before the guards entered his cell to check on him.”
“During the days prior, guards merely dropped food into his cell, and nurses from Nashville, Tenn.-based Wellpath Community Care, which has a $250 million contract with the county to provide the jail’s medical services, just tossed the medication onto the cell floor. Although the food, water and medication was untouched, his medical distress was dismissed as normal behavior,” the lawyers said in a statement.
Lawyers added, “When they finally lifted Monk’s lifeless body from his cot, the logo from his jail-issued T-shirt had transferred onto the sheet, and he was surrounded by a puddle of urine and bodily fluids.”
The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Oct. 6 in San Francisco, said the family’s civil rights attorneys, Adanté Pointer, Patrick Buelna and Ty Clarke, of Pointer & Buelna, Lawyers For The People, noting they “sifted through 10,000 official documents and hours of security and body camera footage to piece together the truth.”
The civil rights lawsuit, filed on behalf of Monk’s daughter and son, name as defendants Alameda County, Nashville-based Wellpath Community Care LLC., 15 Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, nine Wellpath nurses, and a Wellpath physician’s assistant, for failing to provide adequate care.
“The people working at Santa Rita Jail denied Mr. Monk his basic humanity, and demonstrated a callous disregard for human life,” Pointer said. “And Wellpath continues to provide subpar medical services while feasting on the public’s dime.”
Monk’s family, added Pointer, “never believed the county’s death certificate claiming that Monk died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease.”
“That’s not what killed Maurice Monk. It was the failure of the jail’s nurses and guards to ensure Maurice received his medications to treat his mental illness and chronic high blood pressure,” Pointer said.
Pointer added, “They literally did nothing more than stare at him and throw food and medications into his cell like he was an animal in a pen at the zoo. Despite the obvious crisis, not a single guard or nurse thought enough about Mr. Monk to call for help.”
And, according to the lawsuit, an Internal Affairs investigation “found that some deputies forged records in addition to failing to recognize abundant signs that Monk was in medical distress.”
Santa Rita Jail is operating under federal oversight focusing on the high death rate among inmates; 68 men have died in custody since 2014, including 11 since Monk died, making Santa Rita Jail one of the deadliest jails in the country, contend the family lawyers.
“The jail’s neglect stole Maurice from us. If not for their utter neglect my brother would still be here today to go to his son’s upcoming high school graduation, hug his daughter and play with his nieces and nephews,” said Monk’s sister, Elvira Monk.
The lawsuit contentions are direct, noting, “This case arises out of the slow, torturous death of Mr. Maurice Monk at the hands of several Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputies and Well Path Community Care’s medical staff while the loving father of two children was being held at Alameda County’s infamous Santa Rita Jail.”
The pleading adds Monk “was taken into Santa Rita Jail’s custody because he missed a court appearance for a minor, nonviolent misdemeanor and could not afford to make bail. Over the course of the next 34 days, Santa Rita Jail medical & law enforcement staff were so utterly callous and indifferent to Mr. Monk’s mental and physical health that rapidly deteriorated.”
According to the lawsuit, “Not only did the jail staff not provide Mr. Monk many of his medications but when Mr. Monk’s deteriorating health devolved into a medical emergency the jail and medical staff simply watched him slowly suffer and die in a pool of his own urine & feces.
“In the final week of his life, Mr. Monk went from talking & interacting with jail staff to catatonic: not eating, not taking medication, not drinking water, not responding to jail staff, or moving at all.
“For the final three days of his life, jail & medical staff observed Mr. Monk lying face down on his bunk, his lower body naked, covered in his feces, a puddle of urine pooled around his bed and days of unopened meals, water & medication gathered at the door of his cell.
“Mr. Monk’s medical emergency was so dire and the jail & medical staff’s response to it so callous that one inmate who helped distribute meals in the jail asked the deputies: ‘Are we just waiting for him to kick the bucket?’”