A Florida inmate who died from a police dog bite infection was cited hours before his death by jail officers who accused him of pretending to be sick, according to reports.
Records released Friday to the Orlando Sentinelrevealed Max Gracia, 22, received discipline on Aug. 9 after a nurse told Orange County jail officials he was “faking or exaggerating his medical condition and inability to get up.” He died in a hospital the next morning.
“They killed my son. They could have just taken him out back and gunned him down,” his mother, Willine Gracia told WESH-TV. “They allowed my son to lay there, torture, suffer and die.”
Gracia's mother Willine Gracia has been demanding answers since her son's death.
An Orlando police dog bit Gracia during an Aug. 6 arrest in which police said he committed an armed robbery then tried to run away. The dog sunk its teeth into him for three minutes before he got away and jumped into a lake with open wounds, according to arrest records obtained by the TV station.
His autopsy showed the bites caused an E. coli infection and then a more widespread infection called septic shock, which leads to organ failure and dangerously low blood pressure. But medical staff at the Orange County jail infirmary had discharged him without giving him a formal evaluation, according to WESH.
Gracia alerted a jail officer the night of Aug. 9 that he couldn’t get out of his bed to take medicine, the jail incident reports show. A nurse told the officer Gracia was feigning illness in an “implicit refusal for medication.”
The officer ordered Gracia to move to a different cell with a camera in it so jail officials could “better ascertain the validity of his proclaimed illnesses.” A supervisor later cited him for punishment because she said he was lying on the ground and “groaning in a lethargic manner” instead of moving to the new cell.
The supervisor, Cpl. Gwenetta Garrett, said she and several officers commanded him to get up but “he continued to moan and appear unresponsive to the commands.” Jail officers found Gracia unconscious in his cell the following day, and he died at a hospital.
Gracia’s death has not yet resulted in any litigation or charges. Internal investigators found nurses at the jail failed to uphold medical-care standards in their treatment of Gracia, according to the Sentinel. The nurse who accused him of faking his illness resigned, and two others received reprimands.
County officials told the newspaper Gracia’s death has prompted changes, including more training for medical personnel on identification and care for sepsis.
“After Gracia's death, a thorough medical review of his care was conducted by the Orange County Health Services Department. This review identified opportunities to improve processes and education for the Corrections Health Services Division,” the statement said. “All of the recommendations were adopted and have since been implemented.”