Wife, mother of man who died in Dallas jail lobby sue county

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DALLAS (AP) — The wife and mother of a Texas man who died after a struggle with deputies in the Dallas County jail lobby filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force by four deputies and lack of training by the Dallas County Sheriff's Office.

A Dallas County grand jury declined to indict deputies involved in the August 2015 death of Joseph Hutcheson when it convened last year. The lawsuit filed Monday by Nicole Hutcheson, the man's wife, and Ruth Boatner, his mother, alleges the deputies used excessive force in subduing the 48-year-old Arlington, Texas, man, who had entered the lobby seeking help.

The lawsuit, which names the deputies — Fernando Reyes, Trenton Smith, Betty Stevens and Elvin Hayes— as well as Dallas County, also alleges the Sheriff's Office failed to train the deputies and security officers correctly in use of force. The lawsuit cites an autopsy report in which a medical examiner noted a 6-inch (15-centimeter) bruise on the back of Hutcheson's neck.

"Joseph Hutcheson came to the Dallas County Jail scared and begging for help," family attorney Scott Palmer said in a statement. "Instead, Dallas County officers needlessly assaulted him, ignored his pleas and left him to die on the floor of the jail."

The deputies had said Hutcheson entered the jail lobby proclaiming that his wife was chasing him and was going to kill him. They said he was forced to the ground and handcuffed after pacing in the lobby because he posed a threat to himself and others.

Palmer wrote in the lawsuit that surveillance video shows Hutcheson did not act aggressively or have any weapons.

The medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide. A report from the office said he died from the combined toxic effects of cocaine and methamphetamine, compounded by heart problems due to high blood pressure and the stress to his body associated with a struggle with sheriff's deputies and being restrained by handcuffs.

Melinda Urbina, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said sheriff's officials had not seen the lawsuit as of late Monday, but the office does not typically comment on pending litigation.

Elizabeth Saab, a spokeswoman for Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, said the office has "a legal obligation to represent the county upon the request of the Dallas County Commissioners. But we cannot comment on the specifics of the case as it is pending litigation."

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