The family of a former sheriff's deputy who died in the aftermath of an altercation at the Stanislaus County Jail has taken its first steps toward suing the county.
Attorneys representing Craig Prescott's family filed a claim for damages against the county, alleging deputies mistreated him in a drawn-out struggle that preceded his death in April.
Claims such as the Prescotts' generally are considered a precursor to a lawsuit. Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday passed it on to the risk management division for consideration.
Prescott was an inmate in the jail April 11. He had been struggling with psychotic episodes and was arrested after his wife reported that he had made threats against his family.
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He died in a hospital April 13, two days after deputies tried to move him from a regular cell to a safety cell because of his outbursts.
The claim alleges violations of civil rights, wrongful death, assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, citing the use of "unreasonable and excessive force against Mr. Prescott including the use of Tasers and clubs."
It alleges jail staff knew of the psychotic episodes that plagued Prescott, 38, and failed to provide him "adequate medical and physical care, thereby proximately causing his death."
The claim names Sheriff Adam Christianson as the defendant. It leaves open the possibility of pursuing claims against unnamed deputies.
Steven Yourke, an attorney with the law office of John Burris in Oakland, filed the claim Feb. 12 on behalf of Prescott's widow, Rachel, and the couple's six children, who range in age from 4 to 15.
Claims normally must be filed with a government agency within six months of an incident. Yourke missed that deadline, but that doesn't necessarily mean the Prescotts will not be able to pursue a lawsuit.
In June, the county released an autopsy and toxicology report that said Prescott died of hypertensive heart disease.
In October, a district attorney's office investigation found that jail deputies were not responsible for Prescott's death. That report described a struggle during which deputies shot Prescott with Tasers multiple times and used a pepperball gun as well.
In November, Prescott's family released an independent autopsy that concluded deputies suffocated the former deputy in their attempts to subdue him.