GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader says a female inmate who died in his jail this month might have lived if the jail’s medical staff had taken any action during the nearly 10 hours the woman and other inmates continually requested medical help.
“Did Jennifer Lobato need to die in this jail?” Shrader was asked during a CBS4 interview.
“No, no,” replied Shrader.
Lobato, a mother of seven, was booked into the Jeffco jail Sunday, March 1, after being arrested in Lakewood on a series of minor criminal charges, including shoplifting. She was apparently withdrawing from drugs although she did not reveal that to jail staff when she was booked into the facility.
In an on-camera interview this week with CBS4, Shrader laid out a new, more detailed timeline about what happened with Lobato, which shows Lobato and other female inmates repeatedly requested medical help over the course of 10 hours on Monday — but no medical assistance was ever provided.
Lobato died on the floor of her jail cell just after 7 p.m. Monday evening, almost 10 hours after she began asking for medical treatment.
“It sounds like 10 hours elapsed where there were a series of complaints about her medical condition. But 10 hours elapsed and she didn’t get any medical care in the timeframe?” Shrader was asked.
“That would be correct,” said the sheriff.
He said he is deeply troubled by what he is learning about how Lobato’s case was handled. The day after she arrived at the jail, Monday, March 2, Lobato was due to appear before a Judge, but Shrader says at about 9:30 Monday morning, Lobato, 38, complained to a deputy that she was too sick to go to court.
“She did not want to go to the advisement hearing but the deputy convinced her to go,” said Shrader.
Following the hearing at about 11:30 a.m., Shrader says Lobato advised the same deputy she was sick and was withdrawing from drugs.
“The deputy talked to another deputy who made contact with a medical person in the intake area,” according to Shrader. But that contact did not result in Lobato receiving any medical attention.
At about the same time Monday, Shrader says “there were a couple of other inmates who advised a deputy that Lobato was sick, and that was the same time they were speaking to the medical unit.”
Again, there was no medical response for Lobato.
At about 3 p.m. Monday afternoon another inmate, Crystal Chavez, was placed in the same cell as Lobato.
“She was throwing up, not making it to the toilet. You could tell how sick she was,” Chavez told CBS4 in a jailhouse interview. “She was throwing up and was in full withdrawal from what I could see.”
Chavez then notified a deputy in the area that Lobato was vomiting all over her cell and needed immediate medical attention and should be transferred to the medical unit.
“I told them she was sick and they said they would call medical for her.”
Chavez also said at least one deputy responded to the request by saying, “That will be a lesson to you Chavez: don’t do drugs.”
Sheriff Shrader now says he has corroborated that a deputy did utter that response to the inmate’s plea for help.
“It certainly does not reflect the values we want to portray,” said Shrader.
Three deputies have now been placed on paid administrative leave during the Lobato investigation.
As the day wore on, Shrader says at least three times jail deputies contacted medical personnel about Lobato, but the response was that Lobato would be checked during standard medical rounds, sometime after 7 p.m.
At around 2 p.m., Shrader said, “A nurse was in the area, a deputy asked if she was seeing Ms. Lobato, and she was not seen at that time.”
Crystal Chavez said she tried to comfort her stricken cellmate, who continually asked for help.
“One time she taps me and asked if medical was coming. I told her they wouldn’t be here till 7. She’s like, ‘Damn.’ ”
Shrader says at about 5:30 p.m. one of his deputies contacted the charge nurse regarding Lobato’s condition and medical staff decided they would see the sick inmate around 7 p.m. during their regular rounds. Lobato never made it. At about 7 p.m., Chavez said Lobato was near death.
“I look down and she’s not moving at all. Her eye is half open and I put my hand on her chest and she was not breathing at all,” Chavez said.
She summoned a deputy who attempted to give Lobato CPR but was unsuccessful.
Jennifer Lobato was dead by 8 p.m. Her cause of death is undetermined at this point and likely won’t be known until toxicology results are returned in four to six weeks. Sheriffs administrators say an initial autopsy was inconclusive.
“It was awful,” said Chavez. “I mean this could have been avoided if medical had come and taken her vitals. This could have been avoided.”
Sheriff Shrader concurs.
“We’ve learned there were numerous opportunities of missed communication. The communication between the deputy staff and between deputies and the medical unit could have been more demanding,” he said. “The communication amongst deputies could have been more clear. The communication with the medical unit could have been more clear.”
The sheriffs department said 28 deputies and medical staff members have been interviewed as part of their investigation along with nine inmates.
“I’m bothered by the misses in communication,” said Shrader. “I’m bothered by the off-the-cuff statements that appear callous. I’m bothered by those.”
CBS4 has also learned that after female inmates pressed deputies to summon medical attention for Lobato, deputies then conducted a “shakedown,” searching the inmates’ cells. Shrader said he did not necessarily believe the cell searches were “retaliatory,” but said the timing and the way they were done was unusual.
“It is a concerning coincidence, and that’s why we need to look into that more.”
Shrader told CBS4 as a result of what happened to Jennifer Lobato deputies are being provided with updated training on signs of drug withdrawal and how to respond to inmates coming off drugs. He also said he is immediately creating a new position of a “medical services administrator” for the jail who will monitor delivery of medical services to inmates. He said he will quickly hire someone for that position.
Medical services at the jail are provided by an outside contractor, Correct Care Solutions. A spokesman for the company, Jim Cheney, declined to discuss the Lobato case, but said Correct Care Solutions is “actively reviewing the circumstances of this situation. We consider this a top priority.”
Shrader was asked if the death of Jennifer Lobato was preventable had there been medical intervention.
“Yes,” said Shrader. “She might be alive today if there was intervention.”