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Wednesday, 02 September 2009 14:26

Woman claims officers denied her medication during DWI incident

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An epileptic woman in Macon County is alleging that she did not receive proper medical attention after being arrested for a DWI last January.

Maureen Lackey, 45, is suing Macon County in a U.S. District Court and has filed complaints with the Sheriff’s Office and Highway Patrol, as well with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Lackey, who is representing herself in the lawsuit, claims two sheriff’s detention officers and a state trooper withheld medicine from her while she underwent seizures under their custody.

Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland issued a statement that an internal investigation into employee misconduct found no evidence to support Lackey’s claims and has determined the allegations “appear to be unfounded.”

Highway Patrol said they would not comment because personnel matters are not subject to public information laws.

Meanwhile, Holland is not releasing video footage of the interrogation at the advice of the attorneys handling the DWI and civil cases, Holland stated. Releasing the videos would also interfere with security, according to Holland.

Sheriff’s Attorney Brian Welch said the sheriff’s department did not want to taint the jury or reveal the locations of each camera within the jail.

“We can’t take the risk that inmates will find out what’s being covered and what’s not,” said Welch.

Welch said the video could be released with a court order, but as of now, he would rather not prejudice the jury pool. Welch did add that the video bolsters the sheriff’s position that deputies behaved appropriately.

“Because it’s going to help us in this situation, we would love to release it,” Welch said.

What is known about arrest

When State Trooper Leah McCall arrested Lackey on Jan. 23 after EMS found her alone in a creek, just yards from the scene of a one-vehicle accident. Lackey and another passenger fled the vehicle when it wrecked, but Lackey claimed a third person had been driving — someone she paid to drive her home from a bar. Lackey said she recognized him but did not know his name. Lackey claimed that the driver fled in the other direction.

After McCall found the keys to Lackey’s car in her purse, Lackey said the driver could have easily put them there since her purse had been sitting between them in the car.

McCall also discovered unidentified pills in a Vitamin B bottle. Lackey said she told the officer they were ibuprofen, a hormone replacement pill, and Lorazapam, used to control panic attacks and seizures.

“I had no idea I was not allowed to carry them in a regular bottle, as I have done since I was 13 years old,” said Lackey.

Lackey was given a breathalyzer test then arrested for a DWI for having a blood alcohol content of 0.15 — nearly twice the legal limit — even though Lackey claimed she had not been driving.

While she was in jail, Lackey said she was initially not allowed to go to the bathroom and ended up urinating on herself because of her kidney problems.

“No one would offer me anything to wear, so I walked around or sat for a period of six hours in wet, stinky clothes,” she said.

Later, Lackey said she began having panic attacks.

“[They] laughed about me being wet and ‘hoopin’ and hollerin’ when I was having panic attacks,” Lackey said.

She begged for her medicine but they refused to give her the pills since they were in an unmarked bottle.

“In general, the doctor does not want any detention officer giving any prescription medicine that he’s not aware of ... especially when [the patient is] impaired,” Welch said. “The proper procedure was to call EMS.”

According to Welch, all detention officers receive medical training when they are certified in addition to yearly in-service training. There is also an on-call doctor under contract who supervises inmates with medical issues.

Lackey said she repeatedly asked the officers to call her doctor or take her to the hospital, but they refused. Lackey said she had already begun having partial seizures, which appears to others like daydreaming or being dazed. Her limbs went numb and officers had to shift her legs to help her go to the bathroom.

“If they don’t think those were seizures, that saddens me,” said Lackey.

Around 15 minutes before she was released, a detention officer did call someone for advice, but in Lackey’s eyes, it was too late.

Whereas seizures were few and far between in the past, Lackey said she now has them “all the time.”

Lackey had her license taken away due to her medical condition, but she suspects McCall called the DMV to take away her license “in retaliation” for filing a complaint against him.

To make matters worse, Lackey was arrested for another DWI in early August after she was pulled over for driving without a license. She was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.14 — again almost twice the legal limit.

Meanwhile, Lackey is living at home with her 12-year-old son without a vehicle to get around.

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