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Family of California inmate killed by COVID sues prison over alleged failure to follow guidelines

Nicole Iuzzolino, DCNF

The family of a California inmate who died from coronavirus has sued state correction officials, blaming a mishandled transfer of infected inmates, according to a family statement.

Daniel Ruiz, 61, was serving a four-year sentence for possession of a controlled substance for sale and for being a felon in possession of a firearm when he died on  July 10 while being transferred to San Quentin State Prison, the Associated Press News reported. Additionally, 28 other inmates and one correctional officer passed away from coronavirus due to the botched transfer.

Ruiz had a variety of high risk factors with his health including asthma, obesity, Hepatitis C and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease the lawsuit stated, AP News reported. By the time his family found out he was infected, he had been in the intensive care unit of the hospital for two weeks, on a ventilator, very close to death.

The lawsuit claims Ruiz’s civil rights were violated and alleges violations of the Americans and Disabilities Act, Globe Newswire reported. The state prison system “ignored the rights and safety of San Quentin inmates and staff, causing the worst prison public health debacle in California history,” said Michael Haddad, one of the family’s lawyers. “This civil rights lawsuit will bring sunlight, accountability, and justice for those wrongs,” Haddad said.

The lawsuit was filed by Ruiz’s mother and his four children, who stated that they had to watch him die on a Zoom call, the AP reported. Ruiz was scheduled to be released in September of 2021. 

“When we did the Zoom call with him in the hospital, it was devastating to see him like that, ” Angel Ruiz Corona, the younger sister of Daniel Ruiz, stated in a statement.“There was nothing we could do except hope that he could hear is in our sorrow.”

Corona said Ruiz’s death, “weighs so heavily on our mom. He was her first-born child, and she is so heartbroken. It seems like she wishes she could be with him already.”

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