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Lead plaintiff in suit over Arizona inmate care killed in police standoff

(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — A former inmate who was the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit challenging the quality of health care in Arizona’s prisons was fatally shot in a six-hour standoff with Tucson police officers who later found his girlfriend dead inside his apartment last weekend, authorities said.

Police did not specify how 36-year-old Samantha A. Boyd was killed. No officers were injured.

Six hours before his death, Victor Parsons called 911 to say he and his girlfriend had been injured in an aggravated assault. But Tucson police spokesman Officer Ray Smith said Monday that investigators suspect that the information provided by Parsons was inaccurate.

Investigators don’t know what occurred in the apartment before the 911 call, but they don’t suspect anyone else besides Parsons and Boyd was involved, Smith said. Before officers were called to the scene, police say neighbors saw Parsons, 42, outside his apartment yelling and armed with a shotgun.

Parsons had been in and out state prison since 1996 for nine convictions, including criminal damage, aggravated assault and kidnapping. He was released from prison earlier this year.

The lawsuit involving Parsons challenged the quality of health care in Arizona’s state-run prisons on behalf of 34,000 inmates.

The state has been repeatedly accused of dragging its feet in making the improvements to inmate care that it promised when settling the case in 2014. The state was fined $1.4 million in June 2018 for its noncompliance with the settlement, and a judge has since threatened another round of fines.

Attorneys for the state and prisoners are now trying to craft a new settlement.

Corene Kendrick, an attorney representing the inmates, said she spoke to Parsons several months ago about efforts to hold the state accountable for failing to comply. “He said it made him proud when he heard the case in the news,” Kendrick said.

The 2014 settlement arose out of a lawsuit that alleged that the state’s prisons didn’t meet the basic requirements for providing adequate medical and mental health care.

It said some prisoners complained that their cancer went undetected or that they were told to pray to be cured after begging for treatment.

The state denied allegations that it was providing inadequate care, and the lawsuit was settled without the state acknowledging any wrongdoing.

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