NORMAN, Okla. – It has been one year since a Norman man died in custody after he refused to leave a local hospital. Now, his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
In January of 2018, Marconia Kessee went to the emergency room at Norman Regional Hospital.
After he was treated for a headache, he was discharged from the hospital. However, he refused to leave.
Officers with the Norman Police Department responded and took Kessee into custody for trespassing.
“Mr. Kessee was seen by an emergency medical provider in our emergency department and discharged in stable condition. Based on his condition at discharge, he was deemed fit for incarceration,” a statement by Norman Regional Health System in 2018 read. “Each person who seeks treatment in our emergency department is cared for specific to their condition and what medical needs they have.”
In a past interview with News 4, Cleveland County Sheriff Todd Gibson said he was placed in a padded cell at the Cleveland County Jail after he allegedly tried to hurt himself. He was found unresponsive and rushed to the hospital where he later died.
"They should have treated him instead of dropping him in a jail cell because his demeanor, his look, his posture, it all matched somebody being mentally sick," said Michael Washington, Kessee's uncle.
Now, family members say they are seeking justice for Kessee in court.
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in Cleveland County District Court related to Kessee's death.
According to online court records, the lawsuit alleges that hospital staff at Norman Regional Hospital, police officers and detention officers "deprived Kessee of necessary medical care and resulted in his death."
When officers arrived at the hospital, the lawsuit alleges that they were told by a security guard that Kessee has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and has to take medication. He told the officers that Kessee took some of his medication, but he wasn't sure exactly what or how much he consumed.
In court paperwork, the plaintiffs allege that officers "observed Kessee convulsing, shaking, and lacking in basic coordination, such that a reasonable officer under the circumstances would have been aware of the probability that Kessee was suffering from drug overdose, mental illness and/or physical illness that required immediate medical attention."
It alleges that as officers were telling Kessee that he was faking his condition, Kessee said, "I'm not playing with you. There's something going on."
Instead, the officers told Kessee that he was "acting like a fool."
The lawsuit alleges that they were "inadequately trained in how to identify, respond to, and detain individuals exhibiting obvious and apparent symptoms of life-threatening degrees of intoxication, serious medical conditions, and/or mental health crises."
After Kessee was unable to put on his shoes or walk, the officers dragged him across the pavement by the collar of his shirt. The plaintiffs allege that those actions did not "conform to proper police procedure and violate the rights and expectations of citizens."
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and is asking for a jury trial.
"Citizens of Norman, Oklahoma, including and especially those who suffer from mental health issues, have a right to expect the police officers entrusted to protect them and look out for their safety will seek medical attention for those citizens who exhibit confusion, convulsions, incoordination, spasms, tremors, and difficulty speaking and walking," the lawsuit states.
Last year, Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey said body camera footage indicated the officers' interaction with Kessee did not contribute to his death. However, Chief Humphrey said he was concerned over "disparaging comments" caught on video.