Family of man who died in Hennepin County Jail files federal lawsuit
A federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hennepin County Jail was filed Tuesday morning for the death of Lucas Bellamy, a man who died in the jail’s custody during the summer of 2022.
The family of Lucas Bellamy held a news conference Tuesday morning. Among them was Lucas’ father, Louis Bellamy, the founder of nationally-renowned Penumbra Theatre. They were also joined by attorney Jeff Storms, who was involved in bringing about civil lawsuits on behalf of George Floyd’s and Daunte Wright’s families after they were killed by police officers.
Storms said the lawsuit focuses on “the deliberate indifference and wrongful death of Lucas Bellamy.”
Footage played during the news conference showed Bellamy crawling on his hands and knees while a Hennepin County Jail guard and a nurse stood over him around 9:40 p.m. on July 20, 2022.
There was no sound in the video, but medical documentation showed that Lucas was begging staff to bring him to a doctor and that he was in pain after ingesting drugs before his arrest.
Despite repeated requests throughout the night, Lucas was not taken to the hospital or the jail’s emergency department (ED).
Storms also pointed out that while the nurse checked his vitals, she did not take his temperature. Doing so may have alerted jail staff to the seriousness of his condition since he died of peritonitis — inflammation of one’s abdominal lining.
Louis Bellamy spoke on the pain of watching his son suffer during the news conference.
“I’ve made my living as a theatre director. I know how to construct tragedy on stage,” Louis Bellamy said. “I can honestly tell you I could not have built anything more callous, more disrespectful to human existence than what I witnessed on tape.”
More footage, timestamped at 1:30 a.m. on July 21, showed Lucas calling jail staff again to alert them to his pain. Lucas reportedly said, “Help me, help me,” and “My stomach hurts really bad.”
Medical records show the nurse gave him drugs such as Vistaril, Zofran, Imodium and Melox, though some of the meds spilled on the floor when Lucas was too weak to swallow them.
Jail staff returned again at 3 a.m. but still refused to take him to see a doctor despite him displaying signs of agony while on the floor in the fetal position.
The last footage played during the conference showed jail staff attempting life-saving measures on Lucas around noon on July 21.
He was declared dead at 1:17 p.m., with the cause of death listed as peritonitis due to perforation of his small intestine.
Del Shea Perry, who spurred the Hardel Sherrell Act for her son’s wrongful death at Beltrami County Jail in 2018, also spoke during the conference.
“I stand in solidarity with this family. However, we should not be here today,” Perry said. “I have been fighting for the rights of inmates since my son Hardell’s senseless death in 2018. We then passed the Hardel Sherrell Act in 2021, and that year was the least amount of deaths, there were eight in total. We were hopeful that the number was going to go down, but instead, the numbers went up. They went up to 10 in 2022 and then a total of 20 deaths just last year.”
Perry is also the founder of Be Their Voices, a nonprofit that advocates for the humane treatment of inmates.
“Lucas died a horrible and painful death,” Storms said. “What’s maddening about this … is that our experts say that this is treatable. … If anyone would have cared enough to follow the initial doctor’s order that said, ‘Return him to the ED if he developed new concerning symptoms.’”
In addition to the federal lawsuit, Storms said Hennepin County Jail’s pattern and practices must be investigated.
Spokespeople for Hennepin County and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office did not comment on the pending litigation but offered condolences for the Bellamy family.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the Bellamy family and to all those affected by Mr. Bellamy’s death,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “We remain committed to professionally serving all people in our facilities and under our care with compassion, dignity, and respect.”
Hennepin Healthcare also issued a statement: “We do not comment on ongoing or pending litigation, and as a healthcare organization committed to serving our community, we join with others in sending our condolences to the family for the loss of their son.”