In Lake County, Illinois, two inmates in the jail have died in the past few months. The first, Lyvita Gomes, a 52 year old Indian citizen, died in a hospital in January following a hunger strike that lasted 15 days. The other person, 51 year old Eugene Gruber, died March 3rd in a rehab facility after he allegedly suffered spinal injuries following a stay at the Lake County Jail.
Gomes’ autopsy report stated that she died from malnutrition and did not show any indications of having suffered from trauma of any kind. After beginning her hunger strike in December 2011 a few days after she was arrested, Gomes was supervised in the jail’s medical unit for about a week before she was transferred to the hospital, where she died four days later.
Video of Eugene Gruber while in the jail
The other inmate who died recently that was tied to the Lake County Jail was Eugene Gruber – a former inmate who became paralyzed after his time at the jail in October. He was arrested by deputies on October 31st for trespassing and disorderly conduct. According to the state’s attorney’s report, Gruber was then pepper sprayed while jail staff tried to change his clothes. After these altercations, he began complaining that he was not able to move his legs and wasn’t transferred to a hospital until the next day when he was found to be unresponsive.
At the hospital, Gruber was evaluated by doctors and found to have a broken neck. Subsequently, he had two surgeries and was in rehab at the time when he died. In between the time that he was released and the time that he died, prosecutors in Lake County determined that there were no criminal charges that should be filed against any of the staff members involved in the incident. Even with this decision made, the appointment of a special prosecutor is being requested to decide on final charges (if any).
Even though the death was ruled a “homicide,” that does not mean that there is anything illegal about it. Homicide is defined as a death that results from the behavior of another person, and does not imply that anything was done wrong by correctional staff.
After watching the video, it doesn’t appear that the correctional staff did anything that they should not have done when dealing with Eugene Gruber. Other than making the decision to send him to the hospital sooner, I’m not sure that there was too much else that could have been done. If his behavior was, in fact, as the reports state, then I believe that pepper spraying the individual and using some physical contact to gain control of him was legitimate on the part of the staff.
In light of the recent deaths in his jail, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran stated that he planned to spend a week in the jail to show his confidence in the correctional staff. This would be the second time that he has done this, as he also spent a week in jail after being elected to the sheriff’s office in 2008. However, since he announced these plans, he has since cancelled them.