GENEVA, Ala (WDHN)—A federal lawsuit claims two Geneva Police officers ignored the serious medical condition of a man who was taken into police custody and died.

The family of Jeremy Lee Thompson, who was 34 at the time of his death, claims that he died after Geneva police officers Brandon Rogers and Ethen Hendrix refused to take Thompson to the hospital, taking him to the “drunk tank” when it was apparent he was in medical distress. The suit alleges he was denied hospital care for more than two hours, and by the time he was admitted to the ER, he was unresponsive.

Geneva Police Chief Pepper Mock said he has spoken with the department’s legal counsel and has been advised not to comment on the lawsuit, but he said Hendrix is no longer with the department after taking another job, and was a good officer. He also says Rogers is a good officer who does great things for the community.

The lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of Alabama, outlines a series of events on May 21, 2022, that began around 7:00 p.m. in the parking lot of the Dollar General on Highway 27 in Geneva. According to the suit, a customer called 911 after observing Thompson in medical distress, clutching his chest, mouthing the words “help me.”

According to the suit, the two officers were dispatched to the scene, and Thompson told them he was having a stroke.

According to the complaint, the officers found an open bottle of alcohol in Thompson’s car and arrested him for public intoxication. The suit claims they did not conduct a field sobriety test and a toxicology report later showed Thompson had no alcohol in his system. 

The lawsuit alleges the officers violated policy ignoring his serious medical needs and not taking him to the hospital when he would have likely survived.

According to the suit, Geneva County Coroner Donny Adkinson investigated the death and was concerned that “deference was not shown” to Thompson. The suit claims the coroner’s report stated:

      ”My chief concern: What was an individual who was reported as clutching his chest and mouthing the words help me was not medically cleared before being placed in the county jail? This may have violated the Geneva County Jail Inmate Admission Policy.

The policy states:

  • Arrestee must be medically fit to be placed in Geneva County Jail
  • Arrestees who appear to be severely intoxicated or who claim to have ingested dangerous amounts of substances that could lead to death if not treated must receive medical treatment and be cleared by a licensed physician before admission to the Geneva County Jail.

According to the suit, they took him to the Geneva County Jail at 7:30 p.m., intending to drop him off at the “drunk tank.” “The officers brought Thompson into the jail by supporting him as Thompson’s feet dragged on the ground,” the complaint states.

The suit claims a report by Geneva County Coroner Donny Adkinson states that jail personnel placed Thompson in a restraint chair, then, about an hour and a half later, his medical condition became dire, with Thompson shaking and sweating profusely. 

According to the suit, the jail’s commanding officer called for Geneva County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), who arrived around 9:13 and gave Thompson a dose of Ketamine, allegedly to calm him down, before taking him to the emergency room, where he was admitted to the ER unresponsive at 9:50 p.m., more than two hours and 40 minutes since officers had first encountered him.

The suit claims the chief complaint noted in the Geneva Rescue Squad records states “Possible Overdose” and “duration, 3 hours.”

Had the defendants(Rogers and Hendrix) transported Thompson to the emergency room immediately after encountering him at the Dollar General, Thompson would  likely have survived, as methamphetamine overdoses are generally treatable.

Lawsuit filed by Verlon Elizabeth Thompson (Grandmother of Jeremy Lee Thompson)

According to the complaint, the nurse’s notes state that Thompson arrived with a drug overdose, and he was diagnosed with Acute Myocardial Infarction, a heart attack.

The suit says the nurse’s notes at 11:05 p.m. show Thompson’s heart rate slowed, and the medical team was not able to resuscitate him after he stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead at 11:20 p.m.

According to the complaint, Coroner Adkinson’s autopsy report states the cause of death was “Toxic effects of Methamphetamine.”

The family says the officers ignored Thompson’s serious medical needs. Verlon Elizabeth Thompson, the grandmother of Jeremy Thompson and the plaintiff in the suit, is asking for a jury trial and requesting compensatory and punitive damages against the officers.

The suit claims at least one of the officers wore a body camera that recorded the encounter and the arrest.