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'Dehydration is a slow way to die' | Parents whose son died in jail sue San Diego County

William "Hayden" Schuck was found unresponsive in his cell, a little over five days after his arrest. His parents are now suing for wrongful death.
Credit: The Schuck Family

SAN DIEGO — On March 10, 2022, Hayden Schuck rolled his F-150 over on his way home from surfing in Ocean Beach.

On March 16, after six days in San Diego County Jail, the 22-year-old was found dead. Guards discovered his body, riddled with open bed sores, his knuckles scabbed and swollen from punching the cement wall, and his lips covered with dried blood. 

The autopsy report determined Schuck's cause of death to be from "extreme dehydration."

Devastated by the loss of their only son, Tim and Sabrina Schuck want justice, but more importantly, they say they want answers and for those responsible to be held accountable.

"What in God's name is going on down there?" asked Sabrina Schuck, Hayden Schuck's mother, in regard to the number of deaths in San Diego County jails and history of medical neglect. "I just never imagined that something like this could actually happen. Like you see it in TV and in movies, and you figure that it's like made up, that it really can't be that bad. It is."

Hayden's father, Tim, had other questions. 

"You figure, maybe he had a problem with a guard or a nurse or doctor, one person. But, there's no possible way this falls on one person. It was probably 10, it could have been 20 people that passed by him and saw him. And none of them did a single thing."

On April 28, Tim and Sabrina Schuck filed a lawsuit against San Diego County over their son's death. It is one of many that the county has faced and continues to face over what many say is a failed and inadequate jail system.

According to public records obtained by CBS 8 as well as new settlements reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune, the ten highest jail-related payouts - for injuries, suicides, and deaths- amount to more than $37 million since 2018.

The Drive After Surfing Dawn Patrol In Ocean Beach

Sabrina Schuck says beginning on or around March 7 of last year, Hayden went on a bender. 

Ms. Schuck says Hayden's friends later told her that he and his girlfriend got into a fight and Hayden hadn't slept for days.

For Sabrina Schuck, it was a common story.

Hayden had a history of drug abuse, which Ms. Schuck says was likely intensified by his Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. The Schucks fought hard to keep Hayden sober and on the right track. In the months prior to Hayden's death, he moved to San Diego from Orange County. He was studying to get his real estate license.

But for the Orange County parents, that changed with a phone call on Thursday, March 10 when a woman texted Sabrina Schuck to let her know that Hayden had crashed his truck into her daughter's vehicle in Ocean Beach.

Sabrina Schuck then contacted one of Hayden's friends who told her that Hayden had been arrested and was in jail.

The Accident

Ms. Schuck later learned that while Hayden was on his way back from surfing in Ocean Beach on March 10, he hit the woman's car and rolled over two times from the collision. 

Tim Schuck, Hayden's father, later received a video taken of the collision and saw his son extricate himself from the truck.

"He looked dazed," said Mr. Schuck.

"On the video, Hayden just kept looking for his phone and repeating that he needed to call his 'girl', over and over again," said Mr. Schuck.

While investigating the collision, San Diego Police officers found a loaded gun inside Hayden's truck as well as a small plastic baggie of Ecstasy.

Police arrested Hayden for driving under the influence and for possession of an unmarked ghost gun. 

According to the Medical Examiner's investigation, after booking, officers took Schuck to UC San Diego Medical Center for treatment. The Medical Examiner's investigation revealed that Schuck's blood pressure registered at 142 over 102, a high reading that placed him in stage 2 hypertension.

Despite the high reading, Schuck appeared "clinically sober" according to the medical records and, reads the report, "was deemed to have 'decision-making capacity."

Against doctor's advice, Schuck refused any additional medical treatment and was transported to San Diego Central Jail.

Inside the San Diego Central Jail

Just after 9:15 pm on March 10, 2022, Hayden Schuck was placed into a holding cell. He denied having used drugs and responded 'no' to having any medical issues. 

Jail medical staff measured Schuck's blood pressure at 144 over 94, still in stage 2 of hypertension and he had an elevated heart rate.

Two days after the car accident, on Saturday, March 12, after getting moved to a single cell, Hayden was examined by a nurse. 

The nurse said Schuck informed her that he suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The Medical Examiner's report did not include any additional information about Schuck's condition.

Meanwhile, in Orange County, Hayden's parents were panicked and unsure what to do.

Hayden hadn't called.

Sabrina Schuck assumed maybe he knew he was in trouble and was embarrassed.

"He hadn't reached out to anybody," Ms. Schuck recalled. "He didn't call his girlfriend and he didn't call his best friend that he was with the night before. He didn't call his cousin. He didn't call me. I thought that was strange, but then we're pretty pissed at him. He was into some big trouble. He had a gun in the car, and that was a felony."

Tim and Sabrina Schuck considered bailing him out but they thought that maybe a few days inside jail may set him straight.

"I remember us thinking that maybe this is his rock bottom, you know, and maybe at this point, we'll be able to get him into treatment," said Ms. Schuck.

However, Sabrina and Tim say they still didn't hear from their son over that weekend. 

The Medical Examiner's investigation did not mention any follow-up examinations during that weekend.

The Schuck's, still worried, thought it was fine and Hayden's father, Tim, said he would be able to see him at his March 14 arraignment.

On March 14, 2022, Tim Schuck arrived at the San Diego County Courthouse for his son's arraignment. 

Mr. Schuck was unable to see Hayden from his seat. 

Mr. Schuck waited and waited, but still no announcement.

"I was literally the last guy in the courtroom, because everybody had already been done, and they're getting ready to break and the deputy comes up, he's like, 'Hey, are you here for somebody?' I said, 'Yeah, is William Hayden Schuck in there?' And he looked at me and said, 'He refused to come.'" 

Mr. Schuck was confused by the deputy's response.

"And I was like, 'What the hell does that mean? What do you mean that he refused?'" They just repeated that Hayden refused.

The deputies told Tim that Hayden was required to be at the arraignment the following day, on Tuesday, March 15.

According to the Medical Examiner's investigation, on March 15, at 8:45 am, a nurse examined Hayden inside his cell.

The nurse wrote that Schuck appeared "disorganized, nonsensical, and disheveled." 

Schuck mumbled something about taking, "acid drugs," according to the investigation. 

The nurse, as documented in the report, noted that Schuck had stains from dried blood on his shirt and that he was not wearing any pants. The nurse scheduled a follow-up visit and a psych evaluation. 

Approximately 45 minutes later, another nurse visited Schuck.

The nurse documented Schuck "lying on his bed naked and facing the wall."

Schuck, according to the report, refused to acknowledge the nurse. 

The nurse observed numerous bed sores on Schuck tailbone, buttocks, and elbows, and legs. 

She requested that a medical provider examine him "as soon as possible."

An hour later, according to the report, Schuck was forced to put clean clothes on and was taken to a bus for his court hearing. 

Inside the courtroom, Tim Schuck, sat anxiously. 

The clerk called Hayden's name.

Tim Schuck says he tried to get a glance of his son but Hayden refused to approach the window.

"They said that he's, you know, hiding in the corner on the bench and doesn't want to come up."

Mr. Schuck says he saw the public defender look at his son and immediately stopped talking.

Schuck says the public defender and the prosecutor then met with the judge for 10 minutes. They came back and the judge ordered that Schuck be evaluated medically.

"In the background, I can hear my son and he was saying, 'No, I'm okay, I'm good. I'm fine. I'm good. I'm good. I'm okay.' He was saying it over and over again," said Tim Schuck before pausing and grabbing his chin with emotion. "I never saw him. It kills me to this day that I didn't just walk through gates to get up there, to make sure he was OK."

It was the last time that Tim Schuck would ever hear his son alive.

On the way back to jail from the court, the Medical Examiner stated that Hayden Schuck lost his balance, "slumped down the wall, and sat on the floor."

At 8:20 pm, while being escorted back to his cell, deputies reported that Schuck fell to the ground and after getting helped up, fell again. 

Despite the judge's order for a medical evaluation, the Medical Examiner's report does not mention any follow-up care.

Early the next morning, on March 16 at 3:45 am, deputies tried to give Schuck food but he refused. 

At 9:07 am, according to the Medical Examiner's report, Schuck refused medical aid. He refused again 30 minutes later.

Three minutes after the last medical check, at 9:37 am, a nurse arrived and found Schuck unresponsive. 

Paramedics pronounced him dead minutes later.

According to the Medical Examiner, Schuck's "lips were dry and covered with dried blood." He had multiple contusions on his hands. His forehead was swollen. There were no signs of drugs inside the cell.

A toxicology report found that he had trace amounts of cocaine and Ecstasy in his system. 

The Medical Examiner listed the cause of Schuck's death to be dehydration, sudden cardiac arrest due to "complications of cocaine and [Ecstasy]."

Shortly after Hayden Schuck was pronounced dead, his parents Tim and Sabrina were driving home from Hayden's San Diego apartment. 

Sabrina Schuck says she happened to check Hayden's status on the jail website to see if he was moved for medical treatment. His status, she says, listed that Hayden, was not in custody any longer. 

She called the jail and was told jail officials would call her back.

Ten minutes later they did.

"They called me back and they said they went in and he was unresponsive," said Ms. Schuck.

"I remember we were sitting in dead stop traffic, that nightmare on Interstate 5 by the racetrack and I put my f*&*ing blinker on and I ripped through five lanes of traffic," said Tim Schuck.

"We pulled over into a Denny's parking lot and sat there, nearly throwing up," added Sabrina Schuck.

Ms. Schuck says they waited nearly a year to find out the details behind Hayden's death. 

"I've let my mind go to the darkest places, because they didn't tell me," said Ms. Schuck. "Not being told how your son died for months on end, not having a death certificate. It's just torture. There were many a night that I wished he got his hands on some fentanyl from somebody and that he went peacefully. And that's a sick state of mind to be in where you're hoping that that's how your son died. Not these other heinous ways of being completely neglected and ignored."

The Lawsuit

On April 28, 2023, just over a year after Hayden Schuck died inside San Diego Central Jail, Tim and Sabrina Schuck filed a wrongful death lawsuit in hopes of what they say is to hold the county, the guards, and medical staff accountable for their son's death.

The lawsuit names San Diego County as well as some of the nurses and deputies that were tasked with caring for Schuck.

According to the lawsuit, some of the medical records have late entries, something that the family's attorney Tim Scott, calls a "red flag".

"Records should reflect what happened at the time, not the county's version of what happened after a young man dies. After the fact records threaten revisionist history. They are oftentimes a search for a cause instead of a search for the truth," said Scott.

The Schuck's lawsuit over medical neglect in San Diego County jails is not the first. 

According to a state audit, 185 people died in San Diego County jails from 2006 through 2020. Nearly 40 more deaths have been recorded since 2020.

According to records obtained by CBS 8, as well as more recent legal settlements over inadequate medical care inside San Diego jails, the County of San Diego has paid over $37 million since 2018 for injuries, suicides, and deaths inside County jails.

CBS 8 reached out to the Sheriff's Department for comment on the lawsuit.

Unable to comment on litigation, a spokesperson tells CBS 8, "Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and loved ones of Mr. Schuck. Though the department does not comment on pending litigation, the Sheriff's Department continues to strive to maintain a safe environment for everyone in our custody. 

The spokesperson included some new reforms that the department is now implementing to "improve our detention facilities and to help ensure we are maintaining a safe environment to promote the positive rehabilitation of all of those in our custody."   

For the Schuck's, no level of reform will help explain the inexplicable death of their son.

"I am shocked, saddened, sickened. It's sickening. I feel like it's a top-down problem. It's an organizational problem. It's systemic and it needs to change."

WATCH RELATED: Daughter of man who died in jail says deputies mistook her dad's dementia for drug abuse (August 2022):

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