Colorado county pays $1.6 million following jail inmate death

(Mitchell Haindfield / CC BY 2.0 via MGN)
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 7:44 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKTV) - A Colorado county has agreed to pay more than $1.5 million following the death of a developmentally disabled jail inmate nearly a decade ago.

In April 2014, Tomas Beauford died while in custody in the Mesa County jail. The 24-year-old suffered from epilepsy and functioned at the level of a 6- to 8-year-old. His mother charged that he was “neglected to death,” and a 2016 investigation by 11 News sister station CBS Denver found that guards took away his life-saving magnetic bracelets that helped ease his seizures. An autopsy showed Beauford died of “sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.”

“It was like a diabetic needing their insulin or an asthmatic needing their inhaler,” Beauford’s mother told CBS Denver of the jail’s decision to take her son’s bracelets.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the magnetic bracelets are part of a treatment known as vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS Therapy, which is approved by the FDA and involves a device implanted under the skin. It’s commonly referred to as a “pacemaker of the brain.”

“If a person is aware of when a seizure happens, they can swipe a magnet over the generator in the left chest area to send an extra burst of stimulation to the brain. For some people this may help stop seizures,” the foundation’s website reads.

A federal civil lawsuit was filed, and as a settlement, Mesa County will reportedly pay $1.6 million, while the county jail’s former medical provider will pay another $400,025. CBS Denver reports that as another part of that settlement, the county sheriff wrote a letter of apology to Beauford’s mother.

“I apologize to you and your family that your son, Tomas, died in our custody and care,” wrote Mesa County Sheriff Todd Rowell. “Since 2014, we have changed our inmate medical and mental health services provider. Please know we have examined and will continue to look for ways to improve ourselves, our policies and procedures to make sure that all life is respected and cared for to the best of our ability,” the letter read in part.

CBS Denver says a plaque dedicated to Tomas will also be placed in the Mesa County jail, reading, “May we never forget Tomas. May we work diligently, every day, to provide the best medical and mental health care we are able, for all those in our custody.”

Beauford’s mother has said she feels some type of justice has been served, but that her heart is forever broken.