ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo — The widow of a man who was forced face down to the ground in the lobby of a Pueblo hospital filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the healthcare system and the security guards who interacted with him before his death.
Attorneys for Dedra Jones, the widow of Mathew Haskel Jones, filed the lawsuit in Arapahoe County District Court against Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado (CHIC), co-parent of Centura St. Mary-Corwin Hospital in Pueblo.
The lawsuit claims that the Feb. 10, 2021 incident in the hospital lobby resulted in the death of Mathew Haskel Jones. He had been brought to the hospital by ambulance for pain treatment and was trying to find a ride to leave the hospital when four security guards attempted to physically remove him from the lobby.
"They tried to claim he tore a phone cord out of the wall. Again, don't see that on video. Certainly doesn't give you a license to kill someone," said Jason Jordan, an attorney for Dedra Jones.
Jones was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, and the temperature outside was about 19 degrees, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says the security guards applied neck restraints and chokeholds, and that the weight on Jones as he lay facedown left him unable to breathe. For the next eight days, he lay in a coma before he died from anoxic brain injury.
The security footage below shows Jones' interactions with the security guards.
Content warning: The video below shows a prone restraint and chokehold.
The El Paso County coroner ruled Jones' death a homicide. Court documents obtained by 9NEWS' partner KRDO note that the coroner's report states he died from "anoxic brain injury due to cardiopulmonary arrest during physical restraint in the setting of morbid obesity, methamphetamine and probably cocaine intoxication, and cardiomegaly with cardiac fibrosis."
The plaintiff says that after Jones' death, the hospital falsified, destroyed or concealed medical records, withheld or destroyed video evidence, and misrepresented what happened to Dedra Jones and to law enforcement.
“Mathew was taken to the hospital by ambulance for severe foot pain. He didn’t go there to be killed,” Dedra Jones said. “Nobody should have to worry that their loved one will be harmed or killed at a hospital when they go in seeking help.”
The lawsuit says CHIC failed to properly train and educate its employees.
The four security guards originally faced criminal charges, but the case was dropped. At the time, KRDO reported 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner stated "after further investigation, there is insufficient evidence to prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt."
Jordan, the lawyer for the Jones family, provided a copy of the arrest affidavit in the case, which is now sealed because the charges were dropped.
According to the court document, dispatch told officers responding to the hospital that Jones was flagged in the system as an "officer safety issue" and was known to have emotional and behavioral issues.
One of the guards told police Jones refused to leave so they tried to "remove [him] from the hospital by using force," according to the affidavit.
The arresting document says a nurse told investigators she heard Jones yelling that he can't breathe.
"[The nurse] said one of the security guards said we know what we are doing, we do this all the time in prison," the affidavit says. "[The nurse] said she told the security guards people can't breathe when they are in this position."
Dedra Jones said Monday that a staff member at the hospital told her a different story.
"A manager told me that Matt had gotten agitated and coded and then hit the ground and he hit the ground, he hit the ground hard. They didn't tell me he was attacked by their staff or he was held down with the forearm buried in his neck until he couldn't breathe. They lied," Dedra Jones said.
The owner of the hospital, Centura Health, sent 9NEWS a statement that reads:
We extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mathew Haskel Jones. Protecting patient and associate privacy is a value deeply rooted in our organization and as such, and due to patient privacy laws, we are not able to comment further on the circumstances surrounding this event or on any pending litigation.
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