Brandon Cox hung himself in his Henderson County jail cell in September 2014.
A new lawsuit filed by his parents says jailers were required to check on the suicidal inmate every 15 minutes. Instead, the complaint says, 40 minutes passed before Cox was found hanging from his bed sheet. He died the next day on his 23rd birthday.
According to the lawsuit, Cox had a history of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, and had tried to hang himself a month earlier with a dog leash.
North Carolina law requires that suicidal inmates be directly observed at least four times per hour.
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The suit, filed Thursday, alleges that the negligence of jail officials and Cox’s state-mandated nurse contributed to his death. The complaint also charges that Cox did not receive adequate health care.
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Department as well as the county attorney were not immediately available for comment.
Henderson County, south of Asheville, is about 100 miles from Charlotte.
Cox was arrested on Sept. 1, 2014 for cocaine possession, the lawsuit says. His erratic behavior caused police to call an ambulance to the scene. While in a temporary holding cell, Cox confessed to his nurse that he had previously attempted suicide and needed to see a psychiatrist.
According to the lawsuit, the nurse filed a request for medical records the same day. The records were delivered that afternoon, and included a note from Cox describing himself as "helpless, hopeless, and worthless."
At some point, Cox was removed from observation and placed in a regular cell, the complaint says. He was not seen again by any medical personnel.
The lawsuit also states that the jail’s electronic monitoring and cell check system was not working on the day of Cox’s death, having been scheduled for repair.
Cox's parents are also suing the nurse who treated their son as well as her employer, Southern Health Partners, which provides health care to city and county jails in the Eastern United States.