Oakland man arrested for not wearing mask died of jail's 'outright refusal' to provide medical care: lawsuit
OAKLAND, Calif. - The family of a security guard who died in Santa Rita Jail filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that the 45-year-old man was denied adequate health care: He was originally arrested because he got into a fight with a bus driver for not wearing a mask.
Maurice Monk of Oakland died of heart and blood pressure complications on Nov. 15, 2021, which was caused by the staff at Santa Rita Jail's "outright refusal to provide him any of his prescribed medications," according to the federal suit written by civil rights attorneys Adante Pointer, Patrick Buelna and Ty Clarke.
They are representing Monk's daughter, Nia'Amore Monk after her father became the 57th person to die at Santa Rita since 2014. That number has since risen to 59.
A representative from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond for comment on Monday.
At the time of his death, though, jail spokesman Lt. Ray Kelly said Monk died of natural causes.
"It's unfortunate when a person passes away at our jail," Kelly said in an email. "Many of the people who come to us suffer from serious illness, poverty and lack of access to regular external health care in the community."
But Monk's death raises questions about whether he would have died if he had received the proper medical care.
Tiffany Monk told KTVU last year that her brother's death was far from natural, despite his health ailments. Monk suffered from schizophrenia, high blood pressure and diabetes.
"Ya’ll didn’t give him his medicine," she said.
Monk, who worked as a security guard and was voted "Mr. Castlemont" in high school who was offered a full ride to Sacramento State on a football scholarship, was first arrested on June, 2 2021, after he had a verbal fight on an AC Transit bus because he didn't want to wear a mask.
He cussed the driver out and told him he would "f--- him up" but he did not "hurt him in any way," court documents show.
Maurice Monk and his daughter, Nia'Amore Monk.
He then missed a court appearance because a deputy turned him away from the door, which sparked a warrant out for his arrest, documents show.
In an interview, his sister, Elvira Monk, said her brother suffered from mental illness and said he couldn't breathe in the mask.
He was taken to jail on Oct. 11, 2021.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Dickinson refused to lower his $2,500 bail.
And he was forced ro remain behind bars for more than a month.
Elvira Monk had contacted the jail to let them know her brother needed to take his prescribed medications.
At first, she said was told that she couldn’t provide the medication because the pills had to come from Kaiser. Then she was told she could email the prescription information to the jail, but her emails seemed to go to the "junk" basket and were never received, she said.
Finally, she was told to fax the information in on Nov. 16, 2021.
But it was too late.
Her brother had died the night before.
"In addition to the Haldol injection, Defendant Jail Staff did not provide Mr. Monk any of his prescribed medications for the entirety of his incarceration despite being aware that he needed them and that sudden cessation of the medications could cause significant health issues," the suit states.
Monk's autopsy has still not been made public, though a death certificate provided to the family indicates he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
Monk's isn't the only case of denied medical care.
KTVU regularly receives calls from formerly incarcerated people and their families saying they are not given medication in a timely fashion and drug and alcohol users routinely complain that they are not given methadone or other methods to curb their addictions while in jail.
The lawsuit cites other instances as well of "Alameda County's pattern and practice" of this access to healthcare, or lack thereof.
One example is that of Juan Jesus Chaidez, who was not properly treated in jail while wearing a colostomy bag in 2021 and had an untreated colitis infection, the suit states.
Another example is Terry Gordon, who told a nurse last year that he received the wrong medication during a neck operation, prompting him to suffer various side effects.
Sheriff-Elect Yesenia Sanchez did not comment directly on this lawsuit.
But in a previous interview, Sanchez promised that she would treat people in the "jails and on the streets" with more humanity.
"We need to change the way things are being done," she said last month.
Sanchez also said she immediately wants to hold the jail's medical provider, Wellpath, to its contractual obligations and also develop a better path for families to contact the jail if they feel their loved one isn't being treated well or isn't getting the proper medical treatment.
Sanchez takes office in January.
Pointer said he hopes that what Sanchez vowed comes true. For Monk, and for others.
"The goal here is to have Santa Rita provide medical care that is comparable to the care that anyone would get," he said.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez