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Lawsuit filed over man’s death last year at Cook County Jail

The family of a 43-year-old Kankakee man who died last year while in custody at the Cook County Jail has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, claiming his death was a result of his incarceration.

Katie Sistrunk filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday against the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and several correctional officers on behalf of her relative, Henry E. Sistrunk, who died while in custody on April 25, 2014.

Sistrunk was confined to a wheelchair with broken bones in his right leg when he was booked at the jail on Jan. 18, 2011, according to the suit. It claims he was assigned to a top bunk, which he could not get into, and ended up sleeping on a cell floor without a mattress for several weeks until a bottom bunk became available.

“Despite Mr. Sistrunk’s obvious disabilities, personnel at Cook County Jail repeatedly placed him in facilities that were unsanitary and not wheelchair accessible,” the suit claims. He also contracted an infection when he was forced to shower with an unsanitary shower chair, the suit claims. He remained in a wheelchair until his death.

Sistrunk, 43, died at Mount Sinai Hospital at 11:55 p.m. on April 25, 2014, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

An autopsy found he died of bronchopneumonia and sarcoidosis, and ruled the death natural. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sophia Ansari said the death was “not due to care he received while in custody.”

“While we have not yet had an opportunity to review the complaint, we strive to provide the best care possible for all detainees placed in our custody,” Ansari said.

The three-count suit claims wrongful death, premises liability and negligence, and seeks an unspecified amount in damages.