Fayette County

Inmate who died after being jailed had complained of illness, reports say

Dean Ferguson
Dean Ferguson

A Fayette County Detention Center inmate who died while serving a a weekend sentence had been denied medical assessment from jail nurses who said his vitals had been checked already, according to reports and memos obtained from the jail.

Dean Ferguson, 54, of Lexington was serving time on weekends after being convicted of driving under the influence. He checked into the jail at 7 p.m. July 9. He was not taken to the hospital for medical problems until after 9 a.m. July 10.

He was pronounced dead from a pulmonary embolism at 10:13 a.m. July 10 at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, according to a report from the Fayette County coroner.

Incident reports and memos obtained through an open-records request show that during the night Ferguson complained of "chest pain and shortness of breath." Throughout the night, jail officers observed Ferguson sweating, breathing heavily and growing progressively paler.

Jail surveillance video obtained by Fred Peters, Ferguson's friend and former attorney, shows Ferguson swaying and breathing heavily, then collapsing to his knees while being booked about 9:45 p.m., about 11 hours before he was taken to the hospital.

Officers did not request outside medical help because, minutes before he collapsed, Ferguson's vital signs and oxygen levels had been checked and were reported normal. He was "cleared for general population" about 9:40 p.m. Friday, records show.

A nurse, identified in memos only as "Nurse Hodge," can be seen in the video talking briefly to Ferguson after his initial collapse.

After speaking with Ferguson, "Nurse Hodge then came back toward the counter and (stated) that they had just seen him five minutes ago and that they were not going to see him again," documents said.

Another memo says a lieutenant at the jail "personally spoke with Nurse Hodge and Nurse Travis, and they advised ... that his vitals were normal, that he was 'faking' the issues."

Shortly after midnight, Ferguson was let out of his cell into an intake area to watch TV. At 2:45 a.m., he complained of foot and leg pain, saying he was having trouble walking. Again, nurses were notified and refused to assess him, according to another memo.

At 8:55 a.m., an officer observed Ferguson in his cell sitting on his knees and having difficulty breathing. He was taken to the infirmary at the jail, where another nurse, identified as P. Hatton, could not feel a pulse as Ferguson was being hooked up to an EKG machine, documents said.

An ambulance was called at 9:17 a.m., and Ferguson arrived at the hospital at 9:38. Hatton and officers performed CPR on Ferguson, but it's unclear whether he ever regained consciousness.

Lisa Day, Ferguson's sister, said doctors told her Ferguson was dead when he arrived at the hospital.

An incident report from James Kammer, assistant director of operations, to jail director Ron Bishop said the jail's internal review "did not uncover any significant issues that could have prevented the outcome" and that nurses denied making the statement that "Ferguson was faking his condition."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Kammer said he could not comment on the discrepancies with other reports.

Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, spokeswoman for the jail, said she could not comment specifically but that an investigation was continuing.

"As with any in-custody death, we are examining all aspects of Mr. Ferguson's death, including the circumstances, time line and staff response," she said.

Ferguson was an out-of-work construction worker, having moved in with his sister before his arrest.

Doug Ferguson, Dean Ferguson's brother, said Dean Ferguson suffered from high blood pressure, and that he hadn't been taking medicine for his condition for a couple years. He had been sick before reporting to jail, telling Day that "he felt like he had the flu," she said.

Day said a friend who took Dean Ferguson to the jail had asked if Ferguson would rather go to the hospital, but Ferguson declined.

"He said, 'If there's anything wrong with me, they check you out there'" at the jail, Day said.

Dean Ferguson pleaded guilty July 6 to operating a vehicle on a suspended license and DUI, court records show. He was pulled over at a random checkpoint May 12.

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