Gregory Thomas Smith
Reported by Chicago Tribune
The family of a man who died a week ago in the Lake County Jail has filed a federal lawsuit, claiming jail employees used excessive force and caused his wrongful death.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, claims that Gregory Thomas Smith, 39, of Hobart, died on March 25 from a cardiac arrest caused by jail employees using a stun gun on him.
John Bushemi, attorney for Sheriff John Buncich, said the sheriff has not been served with the lawsuit yet but said the case is still being investigated.
“The preliminary investigation indicates proper procedures were used in this case,” Bushemi said Wednesday afternoon.
The sheriff’s department said in a press release Monday that Smith had been arrested on a battery warrant out of Crown Point and was taken to the jail. As jail employees tried to move Smith to another section of the jail, he became violent, the sheriff’s department said, which is when jail officers used a stun gun on him.
The lawsuit, filed by the Jaime Smith, the mother of Smith’s two children, disputes that account however, instead claiming that he was emotionally unstable but was not acting aggressively toward the jail officers.
The sheriff’s department said he was treated by two jail nurses at the scene and was then taken to Methodist Hospitals Southlake in Merrillville, where he was pronounced dead.
The lawsuit names Lake County, Sheriff John Buncich and unidentified officers as defendants.
Along with the excessive force and wrongful death claims, the lawsuit also makes a state battery and two indemnification claims. The lawsuit does not request any specific damages.