A former inmate is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, alleging it failed to provide her with medical care for a skin disease and accusing deputies of spraying her cell with insecticide.
Valerie Arismendez, 26, who served time in the Century Regional Detention Facility, says in the lawsuit that deputies were negligent, intentionally caused emotional distress and inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on her.
The Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the suit, which was filed last month. Arismendez, whose attorneys didn’t disclose what charges the woman previously faced, was in custody between Oct. 29, 2018, and Aug. 10.
Shawn F. Matian, an attorney for Arismendez, said his client was forced to endure “menacing and outright hazardous conduct at the hands of sheriff’s officers.”
According to the lawsuit, the jail’s medical staff diagnosed Arismendez and her cellmate with scabies, a skin infection, in July. She said that despite repeated complaints of itching and other symptoms, the two women were not given adequate medical care or clean linens, as directed by medical staff.
When the women were finally treated — after Arismendez’s cellmate lied about having chest pains — Arismendez overheard medical staff at the jail reprimand a deputy for blocking the two from receiving treatment and putting other inmates at risk, the lawsuit states.
The women were put under quarantine and should have been sequestered. But the next day, the cellmates were still in their original location, according to the lawsuit.
“I was sick, and medical assistance was denied,” Arismendez said Thursday. “It was degrading and cruel.”
The former inmate alleges her conditions continued to deteriorate after her diagnosis.
She said at one point, she needed to use the bathroom, but her cell toilet was clogged and deputies refused to bring her a plunger.
“A trustee brought a plunger to the outside of the cell but did not bring it close enough for [Arismendez] to access it, ostensibly due to the ‘quarantine’ and fear of contracting scabies,” court records show.
The woman eventually had to use the clogged toilet, causing it to overflow, according to the lawsuit. While attempting to clean the dirty water in her cell, Arismendez said she injured her ankle. But instead of offering her medical attention at that time, a deputy identified only as Deputy Velasquez said, “I’m not playing your games.... Stop playing around.”
Soon after, inmate trustees were called to decontaminate the cell. According to the lawsuit, another deputy instructed Velasquez not to let the trustees to spray insecticide while the inmates were inside. But, Arismendez alleges, Velasquez ignored those instructions, opened the cell door and told one of the workers to spray the pesticide.
The two inmates began choking and begged to be let out of their cell, but Velasquez instructed a second dose of the chemical to be sprayed, the lawsuit states. Arismendez’s nose eventually began bleeding, and she lost consciousness. Trustees then power-washed the cell while she was passed out inside.
An hour later, medical staff were called to Arismendez’s cell, where she lay unconscious, surrounded by deputies, including Velasquez, court records show. Arismendez was taken to a hospital and treated for chemical exposure.
The lawsuit alleges that Velasquez and other deputies used the time to “collaborate and conspire” to come up with an explanation for her injuries, noting that Velasquez told medical staff Arismendez and her cellmate got into a fight.
“They sprayed me with chemicals,” Arismendez said. “They tried to intimidate me as well as others. I was scared then, and I’m still scared.”