Missouri county to pay $1.2 million to settle lawsuit over inmate restraint chair death

Dec 12, 2023, 12:01 PM

Missouri’s second-largest county will pay a $1.2 million settlement to the parents of a 21-year-old man with mental health concerns who, according to a lawsuit, screamed “I can’t breathe” as he was subdued by jail staff before dying in a restraint chair.

The Jackson County Legislature in Kansas City on Monday approved the settlement in the 2021 death of Marquis Wagner. John Picerno, the attorney for Wagner’s parents, said jail surveillance captured the events leading up to Wagner’s death. That video has not been made public.

The lawsuit named three jail guards and two companies that the county contracts with for health care. The settlement is only with Jackson County. The case involving the two companies is scheduled for trial in September.

Wagner was arrested Dec. 9, 2021, and accused of shooting through the door of his Kansas City apartment because he thought someone was breaking in. Police determined no one was trying to get into the apartment. Wagner told officers at the time that he had not slept for several days and was seeing demons. He also was in the process of detoxing from alcohol, the lawsuit stated.

Wagner was booked to the Jackson County Detention Center intake lobby around 11 a.m. Dec. 10. The lawsuit filed a year ago said he was not given a mental health evaluation despite evidence of mental health distress.

Instead, according to the lawsuit, Wagner was left alone in a cell without food or water for eight hours. During that time he exhibited strange behavior such as speaking to nonexistent people and eating toilet paper from the floor, the lawsuit said.

That evening, several jail staff members entered the cell and subdued Wagner. “He screamed ‘I can’t breathe,’ and he ‘felt like he was on fire’ and that ‘he was going to die,’” the lawsuit stated.

Wagner was handcuffed and put into a “suicide smock,” clothing aimed at keeping the inmate from harming himself. He was then strapped to a restraint chair, where he again expressed that he was having trouble breathing, the lawsuit stated.

Wagner was taken to a nurse’s station, but no one examined him before he was taken back to a holding cell, the lawsuit said. The surveillance video indicated that he appeared to lose consciousness about 30 minutes later, but no one checked on him and he was transported to another cell while apparently unconscious, according to the lawsuit.

Eventually, it was determined that Wagner wasn’t breathing. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. Paramedics took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte said in a statement that the “safety, security and wellness of all remain a priority” at the jail, but declined further comment, citing the ongoing litigation, a spokesperson said.

Picerno also represented the family of Richard Degraffenreid, who died in 2017 after being placed in the jail’s restraint chair. The county paid a $150,000 settlement in that case. A medical examiner ruled DeGraffenreid’s death an accident attributed to drug intoxication from cocaine and methamphetamine.

Jackson County, with about 717,000 residents, is second only in population to St. Louis County, with about 998,000 residents, among Missouri counties.

United States News

Liam Lazo boards a diesel school bus near his home, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Virginia Beach, Va. D...

Associated Press

Tired of diesel fumes, these moms are pushing for electric school buses

Areli Sanchez’s daughter, Aida, used to be one of 20 million American kids who ride a diesel bus to school each day. Aida has asthma. When she was little, she complained about the smell and cloud of fumes on her twice-daily trip. “When she would come home from school or be on the bus, she […]

47 minutes ago

Associated Press

Warren Buffett tells investors to ignore Wall Street pundits while paying tribute to Charlie Munger

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett credited his longtime partner — the late Charlie Munger — with being the architect of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate he’s received the credit for leading and warned shareholders in his annual letter not to listen to Wall Street pundits or financial advisors who urge them to trade often. Buffett […]

2 hours ago

FILE -Stephen Parlato of Boulder, Colo., holds a sign that reads "Hands Off Roe!!!" as abortion rig...

Associated Press

Alabama IVF ruling puts spotlight on state plans for tax breaks and child support for fetuses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are legally protected children is highlighting how support for the idea that a fetus should have the same rights as a person underpins far less dramatic laws and proposals from abortion foes across the U.S. Lawmakers in at least six states have […]

10 hours ago

This image provided by Tyler Watts shows Florida Man Games competitors, from left, Joshua Barr, Mic...

Associated Press

At the Florida Man Games, tank-topped teams compete at evading police, wrestling over beer

They rose up by the dozens from across Florida, caricatured competitors in tank tops and cutoff shorts, for a showdown that treats evading police and wrestling over beer like Olympic sports. Promoted as “the most insane athletic showdown on Earth,” the Florida Man Games poke fun at the state’s reputation for bizarre stories that involve […]

10 hours ago

Andie Nelson, right, embraces Brian Jaskot, both of Virginia, after their race during the 25 meter ...

Associated Press

‘Totally cold’ is not too cold for winter swimmers competing in a frozen Vermont lake

NEWPORT, Vt. (AP) — Plunging into a frozen lake and swimming laps may not be everyone’s good time but for winter swimmers who return year after year to a northern Vermont lake near the Canadian border, there’s nothing better. The 10th annual Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival kicked off Friday with the 200-meter (218-yard) freestyle race […]

10 hours ago

FILE - A school bus moves up Rock Door Canyon Rd., in Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah, on the Navajo r...

Associated Press

Native American tribes gain new authority to stop unwanted hydropower projects

Federal regulators have granted Native American tribes more power to block hydropower projects on their land after a flurry of applications were filed to expand renewable energy in the water-scarce U.S. Southwest.

14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Missouri county to pay $1.2 million to settle lawsuit over inmate restraint chair death