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Family files lawsuit against Centura-St. Mary Corwin and security guards in 2021 death of man

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The family of a Pueblo man who died in the lobby of Centura-St. Mary Corwin Hospital has now filed a lawsuit against the hospital and the four guards he interacted with before his death.

According to court documents, 36-year-old Mathew Haskel Jones went to the hospital to be treated for gout. After refusing medical care, he was forced out of the hospital by the four guards; Anthony Virant, Randy Vialpando, Anthony Ruff, and Drake Castro.

According to investigators, Mathew Haskel Jones had been "involved in a physical altercation with hospital security staff prior to the arrival of Pueblo police officers."

13 Investigates obtained security camera video showing the interaction between Jones and the four security guards in February 2021:

In May 2021, months after he died, the El Paso County Coroner ruled Jones' death as a homicide. Court documents obtained by 13 Investigates note the coroner's report states Jones died from, "anoxic brain injury due to cardiopulmonary arrest during physical restraint in the setting of morbid obesity, methamphetamine, and probably cocaine intoxication, and cardiomegaly with cardiac fibrosis."

All four guards were charged with negligent homicide in November 2021 after a nine-month investigation by the Pueblo Police Department.

However, in July 2022, the cases against all security guards were dropped.

In the motion to dismiss obtained by 13 Investigates, 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner stated "after further investigation, there is insufficient evidence to prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt." The criminal case records have been sealed by the court after the case was dismissed.

Now, his wife is moving forward with a lawsuit against Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado Centura St. Mary-Corwin Hospital, Virant, Ruff, Castro, and Vialpando.

The lawsuit alleges the guards "physically restrained Mr. Jones on the ground in such a manner as to knowingly act with reckless disregard for the safety of Mr. Jones by inter alia, applying neck restraints and chokehold for prolonged and unsafe periods of time in derogation of policies, procedures, standards, training, and prior law enforcement knowledge, causing Mr. Jones to die as a result of anoxic brain injury as a result of Defendants Virant, Castro, Ruff and Vialpando's physical restraint actions."

The lawsuit goes on to claim the guards "owed a duty on the premises of Centura St. Mary-Corwin Hospital (CHIC), including Mathew Haskel Jones, to not apply improper use of force or physical restraint."

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that the guards knew the physical restraint and force used against Jones "presented a danger and risk of harm and injury." However, it goes on to say they acted with "reckless disregard to that known danger and risk of harm."

The lawsuit goes on to accuse Centura of engaging in "willful conduct to alter, destroy, withhold, or otherwise conceal evidence concerning" Jones' homicide.

Below are some of the allegations made against Centura:

  • a. Defendant CHIC engaged in falsification of medical records;
  • b. Defendant CHIC destroyed or otherwise concealed original medical records;
  • c. Defendant CHIC misrepresented facts to law enforcement concerning events;
  • d. Defendant CHIC misrepresented facts to Plaintiff Dedra Jones concerning the events underlying the death of her husband, Mathew Haskel Jones;
  • e. Defendant CHIC misrepresented underlying facts concerning Mathew Haskel Jones’ medical condition and conduct resulting in said medical condition to subsequent medical providers charged with Mathew Haskel Jones’ care;
  • f. Defendant CHIC withheld and/or destroyed video evidence;
  • g. Defendant CHIC intimidated eyewitnesses to the homicide of Mathew Haskel Jones, including but not limited to threat of termination; and
  • h. Defendant CHIC misrepresented facts to law enforcement tasked with investigation of the homicide of Mathew Haskel Jones.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims Centura failed to properly instruct, train, educate, and supervise the four security guards and created a "dangerous condition on the premises." The lawsuit goes on to claim that Jones being "improperly, negligently, and recklessly physically restrained" by the four security guards was a "direct and proximate result of Defendant CHIC's (Centura) failure to keep the premises free from dangerous conditions."

The lawsuit requests the Defendants fairly compensate Plaintiff for damages and costs surrounding this investigation, lawsuit, and the "mental anguish" regarding Jones' death.

13 Investigates reached out to Centura, which owns St. Mary-Corwin, for comment on the lawsuit. Below is the statement the healthcare system provided:

We extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mathew Haskel Jones. Protecting patient and associate privacy is a value deeply rooted in our organization and as such, and due to patient privacy laws, we are not able to comment further on the circumstances surrounding this event or on any pending litigation.

Centura

Tuesday, 13 Investigates sat down with Dedra Jones, Mathew's wife and her attorney Jason Jordan, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit on her behalf.

Jason Jordan and Dedra Jones

"You have witnesses like the nurse that she comes on, you could see her in the video and she allegedly said something to the extent of this is beginning to look like a George Floyd situation," Jordan said.

According to Pueblo police records, Betty Weber, a nurse at the hospital, told police she went to the front of the ER and hears Jones saying he can't breathe. Webber told police she remembers thinking, "okay this has been too long."

At that point, Webber told police she went over to the security guards and says, "Hey this looks a lot like the George Floyd incident, and we all know how that turned out."

Jordan argues the tactics used on that cold, February morning have been outlawed by nearly all police agencies in the country, but he says they were used by the security guards.

"You can't use them on a violent armed bank robber, but they're using them on a patient in the lobby of their own hospital, their own patient for no apparent reason other than they wanted him to leave, which would have been very dangerous for him to go outside," Jordan said. "You have this situation where he shows up and he's there for gout and he winds up essentially being murdered."

Jones' wife Dedra claims the entire situation was a "cover-up" from the beginning. She argues the hospital and the guards knew they were in the wrong and were searching for ways to clear themselves.

"They overpowered him. I think that when once it was done, they were thinking quick, how can we fix this? You know, how can we explain a man comes in for a little bit of pain in the toe and now is dead on the hospital floor," Jones said.

She is now searching for ways to move forward, now living without her husband and suing Centura Health for the "mental anguish" her husband's death has caused her.

"We were together for 16 years and I miss him every day," Jones said. "I miss him. His family misses him. My daughter, you know, they left a big void in my family."

13 Investigates reached out to all four criminal defense attorneys for the security guards. As of Wednesday evening, we are still waiting for a response.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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