Mother of Norfolk teen files wrongful death lawsuit

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk mother has filed a lawsuit against the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, city, the Norfolk Detention Center, and others.

It’s been almost a year since her son, 17-year-old Katrell Washington, died while in custody.

He was found unresponsive in a holding cell at the courthouse, rushed to the hospital, and died the next day. 

He was at court that day on charges related to an incident at Maury High School. 

His mother, Lisa Washington, believes if the proper procedures were followed he’d still be alive today.

So she’s filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, juvenile detention center and sheriff’s office. 

Earlier this year an internal investigation into the teen’s death by the Sheriff’s Office revealed no foul play, but did highlight procedural oversights by local law enforcement. 

Plaintiff attorneys Michael Goodove and Beth Ufkes are handling Washington’s case. 

“I think what you’ll find throughout this case there are multiple failures that were completely preventable,” stated Goodove.

The lawsuit says when the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Center employee turned Katrell over to deputies, nothing was said about Katrell’s suicidal tendencies.

The documents say prior to his court appearance, deputies put Katrell in handcuffs, leaving one hand out, and into a cell outside of courtroom 5B.

“My understanding is he went for an hour in the holding cell and was never checked on.”

The paperwork says during that time he was able to wrap the drop chain from the cuffs around his neck twice, ultimately killing himself. 

Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron told 10 On Your Side previously that his department strives to check on people in holding areas every 15 minutes.

The suit also alleges that the deputies assigned to check on Katrell went back and changed log books.

City officials say they have not yet been served, and will not provide a statement on pending litigation. 

Sheriff’s office officials have not yet replied.

Goodove says the next step is in the lengthy discovery process.

“If these failures were timely addressed and appropriately addressed Mr. Washington would be here today. He’d be getting the help he needs,” he added.

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