Infected inmate alleges county jail negligence

An inmate at the Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito filed suit against Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio and various officials in the jail division alleging failure of the jail’s leadership to protect inmates from contracting COVID-19.

At least one inmate at the facility died of complications from the novel coronavirus after becoming infected inside the detention facility.

Martin Gasca filed a handwritten complaint against Lucio, the jail division commander, captain, three lieutenants, a corporal, and the jail’s physician and nurse, claiming violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Officials at the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. Cameron County legal counsel Daniel N. Lopez stated that he was unable to comment due to the pending litigation.

A timeline of events written by the inmate in the lawsuit indicated that Gasca was assigned to the Delta 2 unit at Carrizales, “where inadequate ventilation existed. Exhaust vents didn’t work and Texas Commission on Jail Standards knew they were not working.”

The inmate stated that beginning during the July jail lockdown, when inmates were placed under quarantine, officials allegedly began blood testing for diabetes, using a finger prick device, as well as administering insulin injections with the cell door closed, through an open food slot.

Gasca alleged that he fell ill in June 2020 due to “filthy conditions”. He wrote that no hand sanitizer was passed out in Delta 5. “No masks. No PPE,” he stated. “No cleaning agents were given.”

The inmate stated that COVID-19 testing was undertaken the week of July 9, which was previously confirmed by the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office. Gasca stated that he tested positive and is still feeling pain in his lungs.

According to Gasca’s allegations, the jail’s RN came to the Delta dorm to inform inmates “that 1/3 of the population in the detention center were infected. [RN] went on to tell that by just looking at someone he can tell who was infected.”

“And he was not required to quarantine or separate the positives from the negatives. Eventually we all inmates were going to get it,” Gasca wrote.

Gasca further alleged that a corporal came to the dorm and was asked about the possibility of obtaining masks, “Because we were told we would receive a clean-new mask every (7) days. We (detainees) had nearly (14) days without an exchange,” he stated.

According to the document, Gasca had been seen 338 days by medical staff for chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

He alleged that inmates with known positive cases continued to be housed in quarantine with negative inmates instead of “utilizing medically isolated cells as per CDC guidelines”, and that he was still experiencing lung pain from his infection in June.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com