Family files lawsuit in Benton County jail death

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldApril 11, 2014 

KENNEWICK -- The family of a former Benton County jail inmate who died after complications from a seizure while in custody has filed a lawsuit against the sheriff's office.

Jail personnel allegedly used excessive force, deprived Kevin Culp of anti-seizure medication and violated his constitutional rights while he was in custody, attorneys for the Culp family wrote in the lawsuit.

"Nurses and correctional officers failed to provide appropriate medical care concerning Kevin's seizure disorder for four days, at which time Kevin suffered a serious seizure," the lawsuit said. "Instead, while he was experiencing a seizure, he was assaulted, tased and placed in a restraint chair by Benton County jail officers."

Sheriff Steve Keane said Friday he could not talk about the lawsuit because it has not yet been settled.

Culp was shocked with a Taser and placed in a restraint chair following a seizure on Dec. 17, 2012. Jail staff found him unresponsive in the restraint chair, and he died at a local hospital eight days later.

Culp's death was ruled an accident in March 2013 by the Tri-City Special Investigative Unit. The Taser shock and the restraint chair did not contribute to his death, Benton County Coroner John Hansens said.

Culp, who had epilepsy, was transferred to the jail from Spokane without special anti-seizure medication, according to court documents. The sheriff's office apparently ordered the medication, but Culp died before it arrived.

The jail did have anti-seizure medication handy, but Culp refused to take it because he said it wouldn't work, Keane said after the incident.

Culp was placed in a medical isolation cell after he had a violent seizure, court documents said. Two days later, he had another seizure and allegedly struggled with jail staff when they tried to help him. Deputies reported being bitten and hit.

Culp struggled with deputies as they carried him to the jail staff, causing him to fall and hit his head, officials said.

Keane said after the investigation that Culp was not intentionally trying to be combative, but was experiencing a medical episode and didn't know what he was doing. The sheriff met with Culp's father in Spokane after his death.

Culp had two manslaughter convictions in cases that resulted in the death of four people.

His first conviction in 2005 stemmed from a car crash in Idaho, in which Culp suffered a seizure while driving and killed three people, including a 9-month-old boy. Culp was also involved in an accidental shooting in 2004 that killed a 19-year-old man.

During the trial for his first manslaughter case, Culp's girlfriend testified that he hadn't taken his medication for three days before the crash.

Culp was in the Benton County jail as a contract inmate.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service