Family of inmate suicide victim sues city and police department

Jon Campisi Dec. 30, 2011, 8:04am

The family of a Philadelphia man who committed suicide by hanging himself while being held in a jail cell at a city police district last winter has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia and its police department, alleging officials didn’t do enough to try and prevent the man’s death.

The complaint was filed Dec. 23 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorney Alfred J. Falcione on behalf of city resident Peter Momot, who has been appointed administrator of the estate of Mark Momot, who was 34 years old when he killed himself inside a holding cell at the Philadelphia Police Department’s 15th District last February.

Peter Momot is the brother Mark Momot.

The lawsuit, which also names as defendants Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and five unidentified police officers, claims that officers didn’t do enough to try and revive Mark Momot after he was discovered hanging inside his cell at the police district at about 3:15 a.m. on Feb. 13, 2010.

Officers had picked up Momot the previous night after a reported domestic dispute at Momot’s parents’ house, according to the complaint.

At the time of Momot’s arrest, responding officers were made aware of Momot’s mental state and the fact that he was intoxicated at the time.

After Momot was taken into custody, he was placed inside the holding cell at the 15th Police District where he was discovered hanging from the top bar of the cell hours later.

The lawsuit claims that Momot was denied medical care at the point when officers discovered him hanging inside the cell.

Momot was left hanging from the cell for about 15 minutes between the time his body was discovered and when emergency medical personnel arrived, according to the complaint.

“The Philadelphia Police Department Officers did not render emergency aid and/or rendered inadequate care and unreasonably delayed in calling 911 for outside emergency medical services from the Philadelphia Fire Department,” the suit states.

The lawsuit claims that Momot, whose death was ruled a suicide by hanging, had suicidal tendencies before the incident, and that the defendants failed to properly monitor him given this prior knowledge.

The suit claims that if Momot had been properly monitored the day he committed suicide, he wouldn’t have been able to fashion a noose from his shirt, which he subsequently used to hang himself.

The complaint also alleges that this wasn’t the first time such an incident occurred in a city jail cell that could have been prevented.

“Upon information and belief, despite Defendants’ knowledge of past suicides and suicide attempts, the Defendants have failed and continue to fail to take necessary steps to correct or remedy the deficiencies in the operation of the Philadelphia Police District holding cells that facilitate suicides and suicide attempts,” the suit states.

“Decedent’s suicide was predictable and the product of the deliberate indifference of the Defendants.”

The complaint contains allegations of Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional violations.

The suit also contains counts of negligence and wrongful death.

The Momot family seeks compensatory damages in excess of $150,000, unspecified punitive damages, litigation costs and other court relief.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-07806-JD.

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