The family of a Modesto man who died in custody after swallowing a small bag of methamphetamine has submitted a claim against the county, alleging indifferent law enforcement officials and health care providers are responsible for his death.
Manuel Dante Dent, 27, died of a meth overdose, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. An autopsy showed that Dent had swallowed a bag made of plastic wrap filled with the drug.
Toxicology results determined the drug caused Dent's death and showed the amount of meth found in Dent's body was significantly more than the amount considered potentially toxic.
The claim is a possible precursor to the family filing a lawsuit against the county seeking damages. The wrongful death claim was received by county officials Feb. 19, and it asks for $2.5 million.
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The county has not made a determination on the claim and has 45 days after receiving the claim to do so, said Ed Fenton of the risk management division.
The claim states that Dent's death could have been avoided had law enforcement officers followed protocol, properly supervised him or not used excessive force.
His death also could have been avoided had health care providers X-rayed or pumped Dent's stomach, the claim states.
According to a coroner's report, Dent denied swallowing the bag and refused medical treatment at the hospital. He was observed at the hospital for six hours before medical staff released him to police officers.
Dent's family did not return phone calls Wednesday seeking comments about the claim.
Modesto police said Dent swallowed the small bag as he tried to escape from officers shortly before his arrest Aug. 26. The officers caught up to Dent, but he put a bag in his mouth, said Sgt. Brian Findlen.
He said the officers placed a Taser gun directly against Dent's skin to prevent him from ingesting the bag. The Taser applies a short shock, but the darts are not fired.
The officers arrested Dent on suspicion of possession of heroin in liquid form, destruction of evidence, resisting arrest and violating probation.
Police took Dent to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, where he was medically cleared before he was booked at the county's downtown Modesto jail.
Stanislaus County Under-sheriff Bill Heyne said Dent was awaiting his arraignment hearing and lying on the bed in his cell at 6:09 a.m. Aug. 27 when jailers found him unresponsive.
Heyne said sheriff's deputies and jail medical staff started CPR. Dent was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2394.