Michelle Shafer, mother of man who died in Weber County Jail

Michelle Shafer looks over photos of her son Ashley Jessop Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, at her home in Hooper. Jessop was found unresponsive Feb. 29, 2016, on the floor of a cell inside Weber County Jail. He died three days later at McKay-Dee Hospital.

OGDEN — Ogden City and one of its police officers have been dropped as defendants in a civil lawsuit over the death of an intoxicated man in the Weber County Jail.

Michelle Shafer, of Hooper, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City in February 2018 against Weber County, Ogden City and several law enforcement officers.

Her son, Ashley Evan Jessop, was arrested Feb. 27, 2016, by Ogden Police Officer Darien Velasquez after an incident at an apartment complex. He was booked into the Weber County Jail that night.

Jessop, 35, of Ogden, ended up at McKay-Dee Hospital on Feb. 29 and died March 3. The attending physician listed the cause of death as rhabdomyolysis, acute kidney injury, liver disease and a gastrointestinal bleed.

Jessop’s jail intake screening document showed that he told the screener he was suicidal, was on psychiatric medication and had a history of seizures. Shafer’s suit said the arresting officer and jail screening personnel ignored warning signs that Jessop needed close monitoring and care.

But in court papers filed Tuesday, Shafer’s attorney and lawyers defending the city and Velasquez agreed to dismiss the Ogden defendants from the case.

Matthew Church, representing the city, declined Friday to discuss the matter. Efforts to reach Shane Gosdis, Shafer’s attorney, were unsuccessful.

The case against Weber County will continue.


Meanwhile, Weber County has asked a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss an unrelated suit filed by the husband of a woman who died of heroin withdrawal in the jail on May 22, 2016.

Marion Herrera, 40, was found unresponsive in a medical cell. A state medical examiner’s report attributed her death to narcotics withdrawal and dehydration.

In a suit filed in September 2017, her husband, Joe Herrera of Ogden, said she received constitutionally inadequate and neglectful care.

Weber County attorneys on March 15 filed documents asking Judge Michael Waddoups to dismiss the suit, arguing the case failed to demonstrate the jail was deliberately neglectful or lacked adequate staff training regarding inmate medical care.

Protest rally for Marion Herrera

Josie Duran becomes emotional as she flips through protest signs at a rally for her sister, Marion Herrera, in downtown Ogden on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Herrera died in Weber County Jail in 2016.

“It is always a tragic event in the life of a jail when an inmate passes away, and this is certainly no less the situation in this case,” attorney Frank Mylar, representing the county, wrote. “Tragedy, however, does not equate to liability.”

The motion also included a declaration by former Sheriff Terry Thompson defending jail policies and the staff.

“While I believe Ms. Herrera’s death was tragic, it appears it occurred naturally from medical complications that could not be prevented and were not caused by any actions or inactions at the jail,” Thompson said.

The suit alleged the jail failed to ensure Herrera stayed hydrated during her 3 ½-day jail stay. Herrera was arrested by South Ogden police for allegedly cashing a $763 forged check at a credit union.

County documents filed in court detailing Herrera’s stay show the jail officer in charge on the morning of her death was Cpl. Jeremy Miller, who now faces felony charges for having sex with female inmates in late 2018.

Herrera and Jessop were among several people to die in recent years at Northern Utah jails due to substance abuse issues. The deaths have called attention to the plight of people jailed with medical conditions, drug addictions or prescription medicine needs who may become more at risk during incarceration.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!