Kessee family files lawsuit

Police Body Camera Acreenshot

Norman Police Officers Kyle Canaan and Daniel Brown interact with Marconia Kessee, a 34-year-old homeless man. Kessee was found in a jail cell two hours after Canaan and Brown dragged him to a police car and arrested him for trespassing at Norman Regional Hospital.

NORMAN — A lawsuit has been filed in response to the death of Marconia Kessee, a mentally ill black man who died just over a year ago at the Cleveland County jail.

"All of them failed Marconia Kessee and the Norman community," attorney Chris Hammons said. "Therefore, we are going to hold them accountable for it. A human shouldn't be treated the way he was treated."

Hammons is representing Kessee's grandmother, Patricia Thompson, a representative of the Kessee estate, in the lawsuit that was filed last week in Cleveland County District Court. The suit names about 20 defendants, including the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office, city of Norman, Norman Police Department and the Norman Regional Hospital Authority.

Hammons said no court date has been set in the case. He expects the case to go on for a while, and there is a possibility that the case could be moved to federal court.

Norman Regional Health System spokesperson Melissa Herron released the following statement: "Norman Regional Health System does not comment on pending litigation. We can share that each person who seeks treatment in our emergency department is screened and cared for according to their medical needs."

City of Norman spokesperson Annahlyse Meyer said the city hasn't been served with any papers regarding the lawsuit, so the city does not have any comment at this time.

Kessee died Jan. 16, 2017, two hours after being booked into the Cleveland County jail.

Kessee was arrested by Norman Police Officers Daniel Brown and Kyle Canaan after Norman Regional Hospital security staff reported Kessee had been examined and discharged but was refusing to leave the facility.

While in the jail, Kessee was seen by medical staff and placed on observation. A couple of hours later, a nurse on duty -- along with Cleveland County detention officers -- found Kessee unresponsive.

In May, the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death of Kessee an accident, due to "acute bupropion, methamphetamine and atomoxetine toxicity," according to the medical examiner's summary findings.

Outlined in the 57-page petition filed Jan. 15, the lawsuit claims that Brown and Canaan acted in a "negligent, reckless, improper and unlawful" manner when they came in contact with Kessee that night. The petition refers to the disparaging remarks the officers made, which were recorded on police body cam video.

"I'm too cold to stand here and watch you play this game," one of the officers says. "That's why you're here, right? Drug usage?"

"Do you have the munchies? What's the deal here?" the other office says.

The suit claims that others, including hospital staff and detention officers, played a role in Kessee's death, as well.

"Norman Regional had a duty to use ordinary care to take reasonable measures to avoid granting hospital privileges to a careless, reckless or incompetent doctor," the suit reads.

Thompson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of his client.

The suit said the asking amount is $75,000 so far. The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial in the case.

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