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Alaska inmate sues over self-induced drug coma, jail beat down

Lawsuit says an officer failed to get him prompt medical care after he swallowed methamphetamine and heroin during a 2012 arrest

By Casey Grove
Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Anchorage inmate is suing the city police department and others because, his lawsuit says, an officer failed to get him prompt medical care after he swallowed methamphetamine and heroin during a 2012 arrest.

The drugs caused Clay Miears to slip into a coma for four days, according to his lawsuit, which names the officer and city as co-defendants.

Miears, 39, is also suing the state Department of Corrections, claiming that unnamed corrections officers at the Anchorage jail did not protect him from a subsequent beating by other inmates and that the department has not provided the medical attention he needs for injuries from the assault.

The personal injury lawsuit demands at least $1 million for compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the charges police filed in court after Miears’ arrest on March 3, 2012, a woman reported a car swerving at other vehicles while driving on the Glenn Highway toward Anchorage. Officer Joseph Ruble wrote in the charges that he spotted the car, a gray Chevrolet Aveo, and turned on his overhead lights in an attempt to pull it over near the highway’s Fort Richardson exit. The car sped up, reaching 100 mph at one point, and Ruble wrote that he was told to discontinue his pursuit.

A man called police a few minutes later saying the Aveo had just hit his pickup and that he had followed the car to San Roberto Avenue, where the driver, later identified as Miears, jumped out and ran, according to the charges. With the help of a police dog, officers tracked Miears’ footprints in the deep snow to an apartment, found Miears inside and arrested him, the charges say.

At first, Miears’ speech was coherent, according to a police report filed in the case by officer Michael Lofton, the officer named as a defendant in Miear’s lawsuit.

“Once inside my vehicle, I noted Clay’s demeanor begin to deteriorate,” Lofton wrote.

Miears denied driving the car and said he did not know anything about a gun with a filed-off serial number the officers found in the apartment, Lofton’s report says.

“As I spoke to Clay, he stated that he had swallowed heroin and meth as we were contacting him,” Lofton wrote. “Clay said he swallowed about three grams of heroin and one gram of meth. ... Clay was acting very erratically, having difficulty sitting still and at times speaking incoherently.”

The police officers called medics to check Miears, but “it was determined” he did not need immediate medical attention, Lofton’s report says. (The report is unclear on who made that decision; Miears’ lawsuit says it was Lofton’s call).

The officers brought the woman who first called in Miears’ poor driving and the man whose pickup he had allegedly struck, and both identified him as the Aveo’s reckless driver, the charges say.

Lofton then took Miears to Alaska Regional Hospital. He would later plead guilty to charges of failing to stop for a police officer and drug possession.

According to his lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court on Feb. 28., Miers said he told Lofton he was suffering from ingesting the drugs during his arrest and needed to go straight to a hospital.

It was not until a “considerable time later,” after the witnesses identified Miears, that Lofton took him to the hospital for treatment, and Miears “languished in a coma for four days” before he was taken to jail, the lawsuit says.

According to Miears’ lawsuit, he was still feeling the effects of the coma when state corrections officers placed him in the jail’s general population, rather than in the facility’s medical segregation wing. A little over a week later, other inmates jumped Miears within view of corrections officers, “who observed the attack yet failed to interfere or in anyway come to the aid of (Miears),” the lawsuit says.

Miears’ injuries required surgery, among other treatment, and required the insertion of ceramic plates into his face, according to the lawsuit. "(He) has been denied adequate medical treatment, including the denial of adequate pain medication and the denial of necessary follow-up surgery for his injuries.”

Sherrie Daigle, the state’s deputy director of corrections, said she could not comment on any ongoing litigation, including Miears’ lawsuit.

Dennis Wheeler, Anchorage’s municipal attorney, said Tuesday he also could not comment on the lawsuit because the city had not yet been served with it.

Court records do not show a court date for the case.