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Family of a man who was wrongly arrested and beaten to death inside a San Diego jail filed lawsuit

Dominique McCoy was wrongly held on a probation violation and housed with a violent inmate who beat him to death in December 2021.

SAN DIEGO — The father of a 38-year-old man who was beaten to death inside a San Diego County jail cell by a violent offender has filed a federal lawsuit. 

William McCoy claims the Sheriff's Department wrongly arrested his son Dominique for a probation violation when, in fact, he was not on probation, and then as Dominique waited to be released, put him inside a cell with a known violent man who viciously beat his son to death.

“Unless and until it happens to you, no parent can truly state what it feels like to lose a child," said McCoy in a statement to CBS 8. 

"Like all people who have been lost in this tragic epidemic of deaths inside County jail facilities, Dominique was working to a fresh start with the assistance of the available rehabilitation resources. He had complied with his probation requirements and never should have been in that jail cell where he was murdered. The hardest part for me, as his father, has been dealing with the fact that Dominique will never have the opportunity to show everyone he had turned his life around."

Credit: KFMB

The lawsuit is now the latest in a series of wrongful death claims and lawsuits filed by families of people who have died while in custody. It also comes as the county agreed to pay $4.35 million to a woman who tore both eyeballs out during a mental health crisis while incarcerated, the most recent million-dollar-plus payout in recent years over jail-related issues.

According to the new complaint, Dominique McCoy was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor drug charges in June 2020. In March 2021, a state judge sentenced McCoy to probation with a release date of September 30, 2021. In early November, according to the lawsuit, a judge terminated McCoy's probation.

Despite the release, on December 23, 2021, the Sheriff's Department issued a warrant for McCoy's arrest on a parole violation.

According to the lawsuit, "...[O]n December 28, 2021, Probation noted that Dominique McCoy’s probation had been terminated a month prior on November 8, 2021. Probation’s report concluded that Dominique should be released because the warrant was issued in error and there were no grounds for the arrest."

On the morning of his death, a judge ordered McCoy to be released from custody. After the hearing, however, deputies placed him in a cell to await his release. They placed him with then-18-year-old John Roman Medina.

According to records obtained by CBS 8, Medina was arrested on three felony charges including, willful child abuse "likely to produce great bodily harm," assault with a deadly weapon on the child, and a felony charge of animal cruelty.

Medina, according to the lawsuit, "had an extensive arrest history and was known within the San Diego County jail system as a person who lacked full mental competence and was known to be violent both in and out of custody."

According to a subsequent Sheriff's investigation, homicide detectives "determined Medina physically assaulted McCoy, which caused his death."  

"The penal system is designed to help people learn from their mistakes and that is what Dominique was doing," wrote William McCoy. "Now, for Dominique, that opportunity has been taken away.  Our family, including me, his sister, his grandparents, and his stepmother will never get the chance to watch that happen. That realization comes with immense sadness.”

The lawsuit comes just weeks after a family filed a legal tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit after their 22-year-old son was found dead inside a jail cell six days after he was incarcerated. 

It also comes as San Diego County taxpayers have had to pay tens of millions of dollars in the past four years to settle lawsuits over jail-related deaths and injuries.

Data obtained by CBS 8 shows that the county has paid more than $20 million dollars in settlement of over $500,000 since 2018. 

The payments include a $6.4 judgment to a man who suffered brain damage after falling inside his cell and not getting medical attention for 13 hours, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The payouts also include a recent $4.35 million payment, which was first reported by CBS 8, to a woman who was experiencing drug-induced psychosis and gouged out her eyeballs inside her call as deputies allegedly watched. 

Recent settlements also include money paid to the families of two people who committed suicide at the Las Colinas Detention Facility.

As to their hopes of changing the string of deaths and injuries inside San Diego County jail, William McCoy tells CBS 8 that lawsuits appear to be the only way to get through.

“Unfortunately, lawsuits are our only way to achieve a sense of recognition by the community that this conduct and refusal to provide even basic protections and support must be addressed. Dominique’s road to recovery was brutally interrupted and ended by the lack of care for him and his circumstance. The best a lawsuit can do is try to compensate a family for something that money will never fix. Our hope is that because of this lawsuit, and others like it, the County might finally implement real changes to make sure no other family ever has to file a lawsuit like this.”  

The Sheriff's Department declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation. 

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