Wife, son of retired Fayette jail employee file suit over his death

The wife and son of a retired Fayette County Detention Center employee filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, alleging the city, its jail, the police department and several city employees are to blame for his suicide last year.

Jeanette Pridemore and Jacob Pridemore seek an unspecified amount of damages in the death of Randy Pridemore, 53, a former assistant director at the jail.

Randy Pridemore was arrested Sept. 18 when he became drunk and was involved in a domestic dispute with Jeanette Pridemore after she found a gun under his pillows and called 911 about 2 p.m., according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington.

According to a criminal citation filed in Fayette District Court, Randy Pridemore was charged with first-degree wanton endangerment.

Jeannette Pridemore filed for an emergency protective order the day of the dispute.

"My husband has threatened to kill me in the past and said if I got a EPO today it would be the last thing I did," Jeanette Pridemore said in the petition for the protective order.

The protective order was dismissed Sept. 28 because Randy Pridemore had died.

Pridemore, who suffered from depression after his retirement from the detention center, told the police officers who came to his home that Saturday that he would commit suicide if he were taken to jail, the federal suit states.

Jeannette Pridemore and the officers discussed the possibility of an emergency detention or a mental inquest warrant, which would have allowed Randy Pridemore to be evaluated and detained for up to 72 hours. However, the officers decided to charge him with wanton endangerment instead.

When Pridemore arrived at the jail, he "was able to convince the jail to authorize his expedited release" because of his 23-year career at the facility, the suit states.

Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, a spokeswoman at the jail, has said Pridemore was released because he paid a $5,000 bond.

He was released within about 30 minutes, took a taxi to a local motel, and at 2 a.m. Sept. 19, after calling his wife "to tell her he loved his family," Pridemore hung himself, the federal lawsuit said.

Jeannette Pridemore had gone to the Fayette County Courthouse immediately after her husband's arrest to ask for an EPO and a mental inquest warrant. Although the protective order was issued, the lawsuit says Jeanette Pridemore was told she would need to contact the county attorney or wait until Monday to get the warrant.

City spokeswoman Susan Straub declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it is the city's policy not to comment on pending legal matters.

Jailer Ronald Bishop, Police Chief Ronnie Bastin and Officer Susan Wiley of the police department are also named as defendants.

The suit says that the defendants should have known Randy Pridemore was at risk for suicide and that they were negligent in their handling of his case and deprived him of his rights under the fourth, fifth, eighth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

According to an intake questionnaire obtained from the jail through an open records request, the arresting officer alerted jail staff that Pridemore had made "statements of self harm" during his arrest.

Pridemore answered "no" when asked whether he was thinking of harming himself. An intake officer reported he or she had not observed any signs of suicidal behavior but said mental health problems had been observed in Pridemore.

His death "was the result of a continued pattern of misconduct and is the result of the policies, procedures, customs and practices" of the city, jail and/or police department, the suit states. "Such practices constitute an arbitrary use of government power, and evidence a total, intentional and unreasonable disregard for and deliberate indifference to the health, well-being and constitutional and common law rights" of citizens.