The family of a Black man killed in police custody in Ohio early this year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against local law enforcement on Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Jaron B. Thomas died days after a struggle with police following his 911 call seeking help for an apparent drug overdose.
Thomas’ family was seeking more than $2 million in damages over claims that police used excessive force after they arrived to his home on January 23. The 36-year-old’s death was “accidental and his cause of death was due to a lack of oxygen to his brain that was caused by cardiac arrest and cocaine toxicity,” the Franklin County Coroner’s Office ultimately determined.
“I feel like I’m going to get shot. And I’m really paranoid because I was high,” Thomas said during his 911 call earlier that fateful night. “And it feels like I’m going to die or something.” Thomas had previously been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.
But it was the manner in which authorities responded to Thomas’ call for help that has upset the family members. Thomas sustained some abrasions, bruising and broken ribs after police said he was “violently rolling around and sporadically contorting his body.”
After EMTs treated Thomas with a drug to reverse an overdose, his heart stopped. While he was quickly revived, Thomas died days later.
The medical examiner attributed the death to Thomas’ overly excited heart that stopped because of his drug use. But lawyers representing Thomas’ family saw it differently.
“Mr. Thomas died due to excited delirium syndrome which, in response to the use of excessive force by police officers, pumped so much adrenaline into his body that it functioned as the equivalent of a heart attack or respiratory failure,” attorney Sean Walton said in a statement.