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Tomas Beauford might have survived a seizure had Mesa County jailers not taken away his bracelet

1-28-17 Colorado:

A bracelet might have kept Tomas Anderson Beauford alive.

Despite mental and behavioral illnesses that meant the 24-year-old functioned more like a 6-year-old, Beauford had mastered the use of the magnetic bracelet that combatted his epilepsy.

But on April 16, 2014, Beauford didn’t have his bracelet. It had been confiscated by deputies at the Mesa County Jail.

Taking his prescribed medications also might have kept Beauford alive. But in jail without family and caretakers who often cajoled him with promises of Starbursts and Sprite, Beauford hadn’t taken his meds regularly in six weeks when he died.

In the hours before his death, Beauford’s jailers saw him suffering what they would later realize were several violent seizures in his cell. Attorneys representing Beauford’s mother wrote that if deputies had reacted correctly, he might never have died.

“Alone in his cell, Mr. Beauford ultimately had a series of seizures, fell off his bed and died with his head jammed underneath his desk,” the attorneys wrote in a civil lawsuit naming Mesa County and the jail health care providers as defendants last spring. “Mr. Beauford’s demise could have undoubtedly been prevented had defendants provided him with prompt and appropriate medical attention and treatment.”

An autopsy determined Beauford’s death was natural and caused by a seizure. Jail workers who dealt with him were cleared of wrongdoing after an internal investigation that’s referenced in the civil suit, but which the county refused to release, saying it was subject to the “governmental deliberative process privilege,” according to Assistant County Attorney John Rhoads. Mesa County sheriff’s spokeswoman Megan Terlecky wouldn’t answer questions about whether any jail policies have changed in the years since Beauford’s death, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

Correct Care Solutions, the Tennessee-based company that employed the jail’s nursing staff, still holds the contract to provide health care in the jail. Mesa County commissioners are expected to vote on that contract soon.

Beauford’s mother, Tiffany Marsh of Aurora, said her son’s death is evidence that jail guards and nursing staff aren’t properly trained on handling mental illness.

“Do they not understand what disability means? Do they not understand?” Marsh said. “He’s just a mentally ill kid who needed help, not to die in jail.”


Beauford’s challenges in life started early.

Marsh, then a teenage mother, said she was in denial about the issues her family and friends saw in her newborn son.

Beauford was diagnosed early on with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at school. But a doctor later said when teachers thought his attention was drifting, Tomas had probably been suffering from multiple small-scale seizures.

Beauford’s emotional and behavioral issues worsened during the next several years. Hallucinations began at age 8 after he was injured by a falling windowpane.

He was 12 when he had his first grand mal seizure. He was later diagnosed with epilepsy, a condition that never subsided.

Despite Beauford’s health problems, Marsh said he was fun-loving and kind. Generous to a fault, he held a job as a groundskeeper at the Aurora Mental Health Center, but often gave his pay away. When he was little, he liked to invent board games that he made his family play.

“That boy wasn’t just loved,” Marsh said. “He was adored, and he was cherished.”

Marsh’s goal was always to keep Beauford at home. But the single mother of four had an increasingly hard time keeping track of him. At 17, he went missing for 10 days. Marsh found him at an adult care facility; he was taken there when he couldn’t remember who he was.

“That’s when his memory started going,” Marsh said.

Beauford eventually was placed in a psychiatric hospital at Fort Logan, where he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Later he was sent to another facility in Pueblo, where doctors realized how badly he had deteriorated since his epilepsy diagnosis.

“They finally did the IQ test and realized he had lost 20 points on the IQ test,” Marsh said. “It’s like watching a person with Alzheimer’s, except he was younger.”

Beauford’s condition briefly improved after doctors changed his medications, but he eventually started to decline again and his seizures became more violent.

When he was about 19, Marsh, initially resistant to brain surgery, eventually agreed that he should receive an implant to help assuage his seizures. The implant — a “vagal nerve stimulator” — cycled on and off throughout the day. He was fitted with a magnetic bracelet and taught to hold the magnet near his body when he felt a seizure coming. The device wouldn’t necessarily stop seizures, but it would prevent them from snowballing into dangerous back-to-back episodes, Marsh said.

Beauford, a young adult whose mental state was still in decline, spent a year living at Wheat Ridge Regional Center west of Denver in 2012. It was convenient for Marsh, but eventually Beauford started to wander again.

Once, caretakers called to tell Marsh her son had wandered away and was found having a seizure on the railroad tracks. Staffers didn’t think it was safe for him to stay in Wheat Ridge and suggested he transfer to the Grand Junction Regional Center, which was able to lock down residents for security.

Marsh, who looked forward to a date with her son every Thursday — shopping, movies and other outings with just the two of them — reluctantly agreed.

“I didn’t want him to go to Grand Junction because it’s so far from me,” she said. “But I didn’t want him to die either.”


Beauford’s time on the Western Slope, far from his family, didn’t go smoothly. He was arrested Nov. 30 after staff at the Grand Junction Regional Center reported that he was breaking facility windows by throwing chairs against them, an affidavit said. Beauford’s magnetic bracelet was confiscated when he was booked at the Mesa County Jail, despite a document from the Regional Center describing the implant, the civil suit said.

Beauford suffered more than one seizure during a weekend in the jail holding cell. The lawsuit suggested jail staff unsuccessfully tried to get Beauford to take his medication but never moved him from the cell.

Beauford was released on bond Dec. 2 and Regional Center staff later told prosecutors not to press charges.

Beauford was arrested again March 1. During this altercation, Beauford threw punches, kicks and a steel chair at other people, an affidavit for his arrest said. The report said Beauford had grabbed the buttocks of people trying to restrain him.

“(One victim) received no physical injuries but wanted to report the unwanted sexual contact by Tomas, who has a history of sexual assaults,” the report said. Beauford was arrested on assault charges as well as a misdemeanor count of unlawful sexual contact.

This time Beauford wasn’t released after a weekend. He was ordered held on a $10,000 cash or surety bond, and stayed in jail.


Beauford’s condition was poor from the day he was arrested.

Jail records cited in the civil suit described him having “multiple seizures during the booking process.”

Despite the jail’s past experience with Beauford and a document from the Grand Junction Regional Center describing in detail his medical needs, a deputy wrote on an intake form that Beauford had no special medical or mental health needs.

His magnetic bracelet was confiscated again and Beauford again stopped taking his meds.

Grand Junction defense attorney JR Davis, who took over Beauford’s case two weeks after his arrest, said the 24-year-old was incoherent the first time they met in court March 17.

Davis also visited Beauford in jail March 27 for 45 minutes.

“I tried to ask him questions about his case,” Davis said. “I tried to ask him questions about himself and he just maintained his downward gaze. He had spit coming out of his mouth.”

Davis, who filed a motion for a court-ordered mental competency evaluation the next day, said he doesn’t believe anyone could have mistaken Beauford for a fully functioning adult.

Marsh didn’t visit her son at the jail until April 4. She noticed then that he wasn’t wearing his magnetic bracelet. Beauford told her it had been taken.

A staffer from the Regional Center had told Marsh earlier that two magnetic bracelets had been brought to the jail — one for Beauford and one usually worn by his caretaker.

Marsh said a jail nurse she spoke to by phone after the visit assured her Beauford would get it back.

According to the civil filing, though, he never did.


Beauford’s medical condition “rapidly deteriorated” in the hours before his death April 16, 2014, the suit said. The filing described multiple instances when jail staff and nurses noted seeing Beauford having a seizure and didn’t provide medication or transport him. One deputy is described seeing Beauford having a seizure on his bed and neither opening his cell door nor contacting him through the intercom.

“Rather than providing him with the medical attention and treatment he so desperately needed, Mr. Beauford was actively ignored,” the complaint said.

A deputy spotted Beauford lying on the ground in his cell with his head inside the bottom shelf of his desk at about 11:55 p.m. April 15.

“(The deputy) elected not to enter Mr. Beauford’s cell to check on him, knock on Mr. Beauford’s door, or to utilize the intercom to check on him, even though he knew that Mr. Beauford had suffered multiple seizures earlier in the night,” the filing said.

Twenty minutes later, the same deputy returned to Beauford’s cell to check on him. When Beauford didn’t move or respond to knocking or calls through the intercom, the guard asked for a nurse using a code that the filing describes as meaning “the situation to which they are being called is not urgent,” the civil suit said.

The nurse immediately recognized that Beauford wasn’t breathing and a deputy began CPR. The nurse attempted to use an automated external defibrillator on him, but Beauford was already dead.

A case report filed by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office — which includes accounts from the nurse that night, Renee Workman, and two night shift deputies on duty when Beauford died, Peter Dalrymple and Richard Perkinson — confirms much of the detail from the civil suit.

It’s notable that the magnetic bracelet, key to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, isn’t mentioned once in the Sheriff’s Office case report.

Deputy Perkinson’s account in the report is particularly significant. He recounts how at one point, while checking Beauford in his cell, he dismisses shaking and “grunting” under a blanket by Beauford as “masturbation.”

An investigator later in the report reminds, “Deputy Perkinson confirmed he was aware of Mr. Beauford’s seizures,” as he was present when Beauford was first booked, and experiencing seizures during the process.

AUDIO EXTRA: Attorney JR Davis, who briefly represented Tomas Beauford, talks about their interactions and his request for a competency hearing. listen


Marsh said she has been trying to put her life back together since her son’s death. She planned to speak Jan. 21 about her son at the Women’s March on Washington.

In April 2016, Marsh filed a lawsuit naming as defendants Mesa County, former Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey, Correct Care Solutions and a number of deputies and nurses who had contact with Beauford. The suit alleges that county and medical staff violated his 14th Amendment rights by failing to provide medical care and treatments and by depriving Beauford of his life without due process. It also claims they violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against Beauford based on his disabilities.

The suit, which is seeking unspecified damages, is ongoing and parties are next due in federal court in Grand Junction Feb. 9.

Marsh said she doesn’t understand why, after being told about the importance of his magnetic bracelet, jail staff didn’t return it to Beauford.

“That was a matter of life and death, and it proved to be so,” she said.

Marsh said Mesa County needs to reform the way it treats mentally ill people who are crossways with the law. She said the jail nurses shouldn’t have taken “no” for an answer with giving her son medication.

She said arrestees with severe disabilities should be brought before a judge more quickly for a mental status hearing.

“You can’t keep people like that in jail,” she said. “A lot of these people are too fragile to be incarcerated.” ..Source.. by

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