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State panel: Deputies’ care for prisoner inadequate

State panel: Deputies’ care for prisoner inadequate
BY ANN GIVENS


Scott Eriksen might be alive today if Suffolk sheriff’s  deputies had called an ambulance as soon as he hit his head in a Central Islip cell, rather than letting him sit in pain for more than an hour, a federal lawsuit and a state Commission of Correction report say.

 Whether Eriksen, 20, of Mastic, fell or was pushed in the holding cell in June 2005 is a matter of debate. Either way, state corrections officials and a lawyer for his estate say deputies should have called for help when they saw he was bleeding and when he complained of pain in his ear.

 Eriksen was declared brain dead later that night and was removed from life support two days later.  

 "Once Scott was injured, what, if anything, did those entrusted with his custody and care do about it?" said Anthony Grandinette of Mineola, a lawyer for his estate. "The plain and simple answer is nothing."

 Grandinette recently filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Eriksen’s estate seeking unspecified damages for Eriksen’s death. His claim was bolstered by the recent findings of the state Commission of Correction, which said the sheriff’s department didn’t do enough in its treatment of Eriksen.

 Sheriff’s Chief of Staff Alan Otto could not be reached for comment yesterday. Sheriff’s officials have denied in court papers that they did anything wrong. In an interview shortly after the incident, Otto said it was likely that an incident months earlier involving a group of five men, in which Eriksen was struck in the head with a pipe or nightstick, was to blame for his death.

 Eriksen was arrested with his brother Gary after the two were caught driving in Bohemia with an expired registration and marijuana in the car, police and court records say. According to Gary Eriksen’s affidavit, a deputy grabbed his brother by the throat in the cell about 6:15 p.m., and threw him down, causing his head to hit a bench. The deputy, Edward Simovich, said in his deposition that he shoved Eriksen into the cell after Eriksen tried to hit him, and they fell together, with Eriksen hitting the bench.

 Eriksen’s head was cut, leaving blood on the cell floor, court documents show. Still, deputies did not get Eriksen immediate medical help, a decision that the Commission of Correction now says was a critical mistake. By 7:30, Eriksen was complaining that his ear hurt, and asking to be taken to a hospital, court records show.

 When emergency medical units arrived to take Eriksen to the hospital about 8:15 p.m., he was lying on his side, drooling and shaking, according to the corrections commission report. At the Southside Hospital emergency room about 8:35 he was diagnosed with bleeding in the brain and a skull fracture. He never regained consciousness.