LOS ANGELES – The mother of an inmate who died in 2021 while in custody is suing Los Angeles County and Sheriff Alex Villanueva, alleging the 27-year-old man succumbed to a beating rather than drugs as asserted by deputies.
The County Medical Examiner’s office attributes the death to fentanyl and heroin toxicity.
2UrbanGirls reached out to the coroner’s office to learn who is the ultimate authority on determining cause of death.
“The LA County Dept. of Medical-Examiner Coroner,” said Sarah Ardalani, public information officer of the department.
We also reached out to the Lovett family’s attorney to inquire why the coroner’s office isn’t being sued for their determination of cause of death.
“Under California law, the coroner has immunity,” said Christian Contreras, who is one of two firms representing the family. “Furthermore, one of the defendants in this case is the County of Los Angeles. The coroner’s office is a subdivision of the County.”
Terry Lovett’s lawsuit alleges negligence and civil rights violations. The mother of the late Jalani Lovett seeks unspecified damages.
An LASD representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Wednesday.
Jalani Lovette died last Sept. 22, allegedly from fentanyl and heroin toxicity, according to the suit, which further states he was housed in a Men’s Central Jail cell isolated from other inmates.
“However … Jalani Lovett was a healthy 27-year old young man at the time of his death and his abrupt death at such a young age was unexpected and suspicious,” according to the suit, which further states the inmate was more likely “either beaten to death by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies, or Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies permitted another person or persons to beat Jalani Lovett to death.”
Upon his death, the inmate had multiple abrasions, bruises, contusions, loss of teeth, a broken or fractured arm and other marks “clearly indicating Jalani Lovett was beaten and tortured,” the suit states.
Earlier this year, a custody assistant staffed at Men’s Central Jail pleaded guilty to a felony count of attempting to smuggle drugs into the facility in 2018.
During a recent campaign event hosted by KBLA 1580 Sheriff Alex Villanueva discussed the prevalence of fentanyl turning up in the jails as it is not easily detected. He also explained each floor of the jails are equipped with Narcan to prevent overdoses that inmates can administer themselves.
2UrbanGirls contributed to this report.