The sister of a man who died about four months after being injured in Lake County jail has filed suit against the county and Sheriff Mark Curran, blaming them for his death.
Eugene Gruber, 51, of Grayslake, died March 3 as a result of injuries suffered at the jail, claims the suit, filed Thursday in federal court.
The suit also names numerous other defendants, including Jennifer Witherspoon, described as the head of the jail at the time, numerous sheriff's officers and supervisors, and Correct Care Solutions and its
, which provided medical services at the jail.
The suit alleges that on Oct. 31 of last year, Gruber was arrested and brought to the jail, where he was pepper-sprayed, assaulted and beaten by sheriff's officers in front of supervisors.
Though Gruber had "catastrophic" injuries and asked for medical help, none was provided until the following day, the suit states.
On Nov. 1, Gruber was brought to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, where he was treated for neck injuries and paralysis, and he later died while being treated for those injuries at Schwab Rehabilitation Center in Chicago on March 3.
The federal suit, filed by Eileen Siwula, Gruber's sister and administrator of his estate, alleges excessive force and a callous disregard for Gruber, and deprivation of medical care.
Eugene Gruber was drunk, hostile and uncooperative when he walked into the Lake County Jail, but a day later, he was paralyzed, had a broken neck and barely registered a pulse after an encounter with guards, records show.
How Gruber was treated over the 24 hours following his arrest on disorderly conduct and trespassing charges Oct. 31 led to a criminal investigation by the Lake County state's attorney and the firing of at least one jail nurse, according to documents released to the Tribune in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The state's attorney's office declined to press charges after finding no evidence of criminal intent, officials said.
But documents and video from the investigation raise questions about jail procedures and the physical handling of Gruber, who complained for hours that he couldn't move his legs before paramedics were called the next morning.
Gruber's case marks the second unusual incident reported at the jail since last fall.
Inmate Lyvita Gomes, an India native who had shown signs of mental illness in jail, died Jan. 3 after launching a 15-day hunger strike.
Her family has questioned her treatment in jail and events leading to her incarceration, which began when she missed jury duty — something she was ineligible to serve, anyway, as a non-citizen — and was charged with resisting arrest.
Gruber's injury appeared to have resulted from a neck-twisting "take-down" maneuver made as guards struggled to change his clothes, records show.
Officers did not document the physical altercation in their required daily reports, noting only that they pepper-sprayed him because he was combative and threatened violence against guards, according to records.
A nurse told jail guards that if Gruber were really paralyzed, he would "urinate on himself" — a test that a physician later told investigators was not an appropriate measure for paralysis.
During Gruber's incarceration, security videos show, deputies hoisted him by the armpits and carried him, legs dragging, through the jail.
Other images appear to show an officer holding a slumping Gruber up for his mug shot.
No cameras were present in the cells where the pepper-spraying and take-down maneuver occurred, so investigators had to rely on witness reports, some of which contained conflicting statements, according to records.