NOTE: This story was updated on Aug. 5 after originally posting on Aug. 4
UNION COUNTY — A lawsuit has been filed against Sheriff Eddie Cathey for wrongful death.
The lawsuit, filed on July 28, comes on the heels of a complaint filed the same week against deputies for excessive force during an arrest that took place on April 1, 2019.
The wrongful death lawsuit claims that Dustin Kemp Medlin, 29, of Wingate died while in the custody of the Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) due to a methamphetamine overdose and negligence. It also claims that Cathey and his staff are in violation of the 14th amendment.
The suit was filed on the day before the second anniversary of Medlin’s death.
According to the suit, at around 11 p.m. on July 28, 2018, officers with the Monroe Police Department Narcotics unit and Detective Travis Furr completed a drug investigation at 1245 W. Roosevelt Boulevard after observing what they believed to be a drug transaction. Officers arrested three individuals including Medlin.
One of the individuals that was arrested reportedly had a digital scale and money in their possession. Officers reportedly believed the transaction occurred between the individual and Medlin, and that Medlin was in possession of the drugs.
During an investigation by Monroe Police, the second individual told Detective Furr they witnessed Medlin insert methamphetamine into his anus. Medlin denied having the drug, but officers were suspicious; they transported Medlin to the Union County Jail because the jail scanner or body scanner could detect the presence of methamphetamine, per the suit.
At 1:45 a.m. on July 29, Medlin arrived at the Union County Jail where a four-minute strip search was done. “Nothing was found on Medlin’s person during that search,” the suit states. “Police officers learned that the body scanner at the jail used to discover foreign objects inside the body was inoperable that evening,” according to the suit.
About 30 minutes later, the booking process began and Medlin, according to the suit, was sweating profusely.
Around this time, “the Sergeant expressed great concern in a conversation with Medlin that Medlin could die of a drug overdose and asked Medlin to tell the Sergeant if Medlin had ingested any drugs. The Sergeant said he was very concerned about Medlin’s health and what could happen to Medlin if Medlin had ingested drugs,” the suit reads.
The suit states at approximately 2:54 a.m. the booking process was completed. By that time, Medlin had been placed into a cell where he removed his shirt, per the suit.
Between 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., UCSO officer E. Smith conducted rounds making quick glances through the cell door’s small window, the suit alleges.
During those 90 minutes, “Medlin was lying on his floor mat, shaking his feet and unable to remain still. Medlin got up at this time and moved around his temporary holding cell for a short time. The skin in his head, neck and upper back area was red in color,” the suit states. Medlin was checked on again about an hour later, according to the report. “By 4:58 a.m. Medlin was shaking his arms, legs and feet and rolling about from side to side. Medlin’s shaking and involuntary jerking continued until and through 5:06 a.m., when Medlin put is knees and arms in the air in obvious agony. Medlin then returned to writhing, shaking, rolling and rocking,” according to the suit.
According to the suit, there was a shift change at approximately 5:30 a.m. which was when officer McSheehan informed officer Knight (employed by the jail) who was starting a shift that they needed to “be careful” with Medlin who was under the influence of drugs.
Approximately fifteen minutes later “Officer Knight went to the temporary holding cell where Medlin was located at that time and noted that Medlin was laying on his back with his knees and arms up and that Medlin’s speech was incoherent,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit states that at 6:05 a.m. “the Sergeant was notified by the nurse on duty that Medlin would need to go to the hospital.”
At 6:12 a.m., EMS was called, the suit states.
According to the suit, Medlin was put into handcuffs and shackled when EMS entered the temporary holding cell. EMS workers put Medlin on a stretcher. “Medlin was thereafter rolled out to the ambulance, whereupon their arrival officer Knight observed an EMS worker place his hand on Medlin’s chest which officer Knight noted ‘did not appear to be moving,’ ” the lawsuit states. EMS reportedly performed CPR on Medlin and it was labeled a “cardiac arrest case.”
According to the lawsuit, Medlin was pronounced dead at 7:04 a.m. at Carolinas Medical Center-Union.
An autopsy from the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office on July 30, 2018 stated that the cause of Medlin’s death was heroin and methamphetamine toxicity.
“Medlin exhibit obvious signs of methamphetamine toxicity/overdose at the jail. By 3:15 a.m. at the very latest, Medlin was exhibiting signs by holding his arms up and moving awkwardly and shaking in his cell, long after Sheriff Cathey’s jail staff, including the Sergeant on duty, became aware that Medlin consumed eight grams of methamphetamine by ingesting or by inserting into his anus prior to his arrival at the jail. Cathey’s jail staff, including the Sergeant on duty, was aware that ingestion or insertion of methamphetamine into the anus could lead to death. Medlin was sweating profusely and appeared to be impaired on drugs at the time of his arrival at the jail. Medlin was thereafter left with no more observation by jail staff than a few second-or-less glimpses into his temporary holding cell where he continued to exhibit increasingly disturbing signs of methamphetamine toxicity/overdose while he spent several hours in his temporary holding cell writhing in pain,” the lawsuit states.
A report published by the Enquirer-Journal in 2018 sources the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner which explains, “The toxicology report shows that Medlin had opioids, codeine, heroin and methamphetamine in his body at the time of death. Naloxone, or Narcan as it is also known, was administered. Naloxone negates the side effects of drugs.”
“He was placed in a segregated cell that required 15 minute checks. Jail nurse reports no complaints by decedent at time of booking or until found by detention staff,” per a preliminary summary of circumstances surrounding death document from the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh,” the same article states.
The 2018 E-J article sourced the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh who shared: “At 05:45 rounding, decedent Medlin was reportedly found on floor near front of cell, reportedly hot and sweating profusely. Ambient temperature of cell was reportedly very warm. Conditions reported to jail nurse who found decedent at 06:00 having hallucinations and combative and talking out of his head ... Jail nurse further reported that decedent suffered witnessed arrest in ambulance. 10 line reported placed and Narcan administered with no decedent response.”
The Enquirer-Journal has reached out to the attorney representing Angela Lee Lovings (Administratrix of Medlin’s estate) in an attempt to obtain a copy of the partial footage that shows Medlin in UCSO custody.
An unsuccessful attempt to reach Sheriff Cathey for a comment was made by the Enquirer-Journal.