Mother Calls for Help, Son Dumped in Caged Truck and Dies – Family Settles for $399,000 Wrongful Death Deal

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By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – The family of a man who died in police custody in 2018 after suffering a methamphetamine overdose, and was dumped in the back of a caged truck instead of receiving treatment, received $399,000 from the California Dept. of Correction and Rehabilitation ($300,000) and the city of Sacramento ($99,000) this week.

Brandon Smith’s mother, Yolanda Ford, and his three minor children, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2018 in federal court, represented by civil rights attorney John Burris.

“Defendants were on notice that (Smith) was in the midst of a life-threatening medical emergency, likely a drug overdose, that could kill him, but did nothing to expedite medical care,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, they deliberately delayed medical treatment by driving around with him in the back of the wagon, not even taking him to a hospital when anyone would have known that he needed to receive immediate medical treatment to save his life,” according to the lawsuit.

Yolanda Ford called law enforcement for help but her plea for aid ultimately led to her son’s death. 

Ford asked for assistance for Smith to deal with a recent drug relapse, said the suit, and CDCR parole officer Angelle Garnder suggested Ford take her son to the parole office.

Garner and Charles Mosby drove Smith in a caged truck to the Volunteers of America Comprehensive Alcohol Treatment Center, the lawsuit alleged, but observed Smith was showing signs he was under the influence of drugs, and would not be admitted by VOA, explained the suit.

Sacramento Police Dept. Officer Marcus Frank and county Department of Behavioral Health mental health counselor Elizabeth Almendarez—both also named as defendants in the lawsuit—saw Smith was lying on the floor, but, said the suit, said he was “good,” adding shortly after, “I feel like I’m having a heart attack!” police video showed.

The lawsuit alleged Almendarez warned Frank, “You don’t want him seizing or having a heart attack in the back of the wagon,” but Frank stated Smith was all right.  

However, when the police vehicle got to the jail, Frank opened the back door, found Brandon Smith face down and unresponsive. He called paramedics and began to administer CPR, the lawsuit said. Smith was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy found the cause of death was a meth overdose.

Mosby and Garner are still parole officers, Frank is still a police officer and Almendarez is not a county employee. 

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