4.30.2024 Press Release: HWM Lawsuit Highlights Crisis of Inmate Overdose Deaths at MDC

Albuquerque, New Mexico –

Sandra Lente, the personal representative of the estate of her daughter April Peterson, represented by Huffman Wallace & Monagle, LLC, has filed a lawsuit against the Board of County
Commissioners for the County of Bernalillo. The lawsuit alleges severe negligence and violation of civil rights that led to the tragic and preventable death of Ms. Peterson in the early morning hours of June 21, 2023.

Ms. Peterson, who was detained at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) for approximately 26 hours, died under questionable circumstances that have raised serious concerns regarding the operations and monitoring protocols at the facility. The complaint highlights that Ms. Peterson was placed in a detoxification pod within the facility to be monitored for withdrawal symptoms but was found unresponsive after a series of policy violations by a corrections officer. Allegations include this officer’s inappropriate use of internet resources and failure to perform required welfare checks, all during his shift when Ms. Peterson needed critical oversight.

“We are seeing a disturbing pattern of MDC corrections officers watching YouTube and playing video games instead of watching the people in their custody,” said Jason Wallace, an attorney for
Ms. Peterson’s estate. “These are human beings, and many of them are in a medically precarious state. Failing to keep a close eye on these individuals when they are detoxing is inexcusable.” The lawsuit claims breaches of duty by the detention center’s staff, specifically pointing to the neglect in performing mandatory welfare checks and properly monitoring the inmates. Moreover, the lawsuit details the improper actions and inactions leading up to Ms. Peterson’s death, including the failure to utilize life-saving measures such as Narcan and a functional Automated External Defibrillator (AED), potentially contributing to her untimely demise. It further accuses the facility of negligence in controlling the inflow of illegal substances and maintaining essential life-saving medical equipment.

“Ms. Peterson’s death is one of many detox/overdose deaths at MDC in recent years,” said Levi Monagle, another attorney for the Estate. “All indications are that inmates are obtaining drugs within the facility, and are overdosing out of desperation to soothe agonizing withdrawal symptoms. It is an incredibly tragic situation.”

The lawsuit seeks justice and accountability for the loss of Ms. Peterson, emphasizing the urgent need for systemic changes within the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center to ensure the safety and rights of all individuals in custody. The legal action aims not only to address the specific failures in April Peterson’s case but also to prompt an overhaul of policies and practices to prevent future tragedies.

The family and legal team request that the community respect their privacy during this challenging time and will provide updates as the case progresses.

View the official complaint here.

For further context or comment, please contact:

Jason T. Wallace – 505.255.6300 or [email protected]

Levi Monagle – 505.255.6300 or [email protected]

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