Family of Cook County Jail detainee who died of COVID-19 sues sheriff, county

The lawsuit claims the county violated Jeffery Pendleton’s constitutional rights by shackling him to his hospital bed while being treated for the virus.

SHARE Family of Cook County Jail detainee who died of COVID-19 sues sheriff, county
A detainee at Cook County Jail is charged with beating a correctional officer on April 13, 2020.

A lawsuit was filed April 9, 2020, by the family of a Cook County Jail detainee who died of COVID-19.

Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times file photo

A federal lawsuit filed by the family of the first detainee at Cook County Jail to die from complications of COVID-19 alleges the county violated his constitutional rights by shackling him to a bed while he was battling the virus.

The lawsuit filed Thursday by Jeffery Pendleton’s brothers in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois names Sheriff Tom Dart and Cook County as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Pendleton was transferred to Stroger Hospital March 30 for treatment after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The lawsuit claims Pendleton was “shackled by hand and foot,” to his hospital bed while dying of the virus despite the 24-hour presence of an armed guard, as Cook County Department of Corrections policy outlines for detainees hospitalized outside of the jail.

The “shackling policy, applied to Pendleton, was excessive, caused gratuitous pain, and violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment,” the lawsuit states.

Pendleton was pronounced dead about 9:50 p.m. April 5 at the hospital, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. An autopsy found he died of COVID-19 infection with hypertension and pulmonary disease as contributing factors.

He was the first detainee at the jail to die of the virus. As of Thursday evening, 276 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21 of those cases are being treated at local hospitals, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the “shackling policy” for all current and future detainees who are being treated for the virus at hospitals outside of the jail.

The sheriff’s office said it hadn’t received the suit and didn’t provide comment.

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