Two Massachusetts police officers denied a teenager access to his anti-seizure medication, causing him to experience “a potentially life-threatening series of seizures that required hospitalization,” according to a civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday.
On June 4, 2014, Joshua Sampson, then 19, was arrested by several Amherst police officers who witnessed him rolling a joint while sitting in his parked car. While the officers were searching the car, Sampson heard the sound of a pill bottle rattling and remembered that he had forgotten to take his morning dose of Keppra — a medication he took twice daily to treat his epilepsy.
According to the suit, Sampson told the officers searching his car that he needed to take the medicine as soon as he was brought to the police station.
Sampson was taken to the station by Marcus Humber and booked by Jamie Reardon, the two officers named in the lawsuit.
At the police station, Sampson told Reardon that he needed to take his Keppra, and that it was urgent because he missed his morning dose. He also called his girlfriend and asked her to tell his mother to bring a second bottle of Keppra to the station to ensure he was able to take it.
Sampson was put in a holding cell, where he asked Humber — the officer assigned to monitor him — at least twice for his medication.
While Sampson was being detained at the station, his mother Doria Rhodes and grandmother, Dot Rhodes, showed up with the extra bottle of Keppra. Doria Rhodes gave it to an officer at the front desk and explained that Sampson needed the medication immediately.
According to the suit, neither Reardon or Humber ever provided Sampson with his medication, but Humber filed a false incident report claiming that Sampson refused the medication.
Around 7:25 pm, Sampson began having a seizure in the holding cell. After the other detainees began yelling to get the attention of police, the officers called the Amherst Fire Department to send paramedics.
The paramedics took Sampson to Cooley Dickinson Hospital where he received some treatment, but he had to be transferred to Baystate Medical Center where staff placed him in a drug-induced coma.
According to the suit: “Medical staff at both hospitals described Mr. Sampson as being in status epilepticus. Status epilepticus is a potentially life-threatening state in which seizures last for an extended period of time or the person does not regain consciousness between multiple seizures.”
The suit continues:
After he was released from the hospital it took Mr. Sampson a long time to come out of the daze from the benzodiazepines and other drugs he was given in the hospitals. During this period, he stayed at home and felt extremely depressed.
As a result of his seizures in June 2014, Mr. Sampson’s vocabulary has become more limited. He struggles to think of the correct words in conversations and to articulate his thoughts and feelings.
Mr. Sampson’s short-term memory has also been affected by the seizures he suffered in June 2014. He has problems retaining information. He must be repeatedly reminded of upcoming events. Often, he will walk into a room or pick up an object without knowing why. These short-term memory problems frustrate Mr. Sampson and cause difficulties for him and his family.
Sampson is being represented by Howard Friedman, a prominent Boston civil rights lawyer.
This lawsuit is the second filed by Friedman’s law firm against Amherst police in as many years. In February 2015, his firm filed a suit on behalf of a University of Massachusetts Amherst student after police attacked the student and stomped on his phone for recording them.
Keppra was also the medication that Sandra Bland was taking for her epilepsy when she was found dead in a Texas cell last year.