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County facing wrongful death lawsuit after death of inmate, a National Guard veteran

Family of Nicholas Colbert suing Cuyahoga County
nick colbert.JPG
Posted at 4:48 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 19:04:10-04

CLEVELAND — The family of a National Guard veteran who hanged himself inside the Cuyahoga County jail has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.

The attorney representing Nicholas Colbert's family said Colbert, a father of four, was despondent and told jail employees that he recently attempted suicide.

"That should have set off all sorts of bells and whistles in terms of getting him segregated to a mental health pod, getting him counseling, getting him treatment," said attorney Paul Cristallo. "Instead, he was allowed to remove the cord from his hoodie, and hang onto it, and to tie it around his waist as if it was belt and walk around in the jail pod area."

Another inmate in the jail's veteran's pod found Colbert with a string tied to his bunk and wrapped around his neck on May 10, 2019.

The 36-year old was booked into the jail the day before on a drug possession charge.

His mother hoped it was an opportunity for Colbert, who she said struggled with addiction, to get clean.

"I chose to leave him there and not bail him out," said Colbert's mother, Laura Colbert, "because I thought he would be safe from using and overdosing, and I lost him."

Colbert was the ninth inmate to die during an 11-month period.

View an interactive timeline of ongoing issues at the County Jail below:

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His death came nearly six months after a US Marshal's report exposed "inhumane" conditions inside the jail.

Records show corrections officers failed to check on Colbert for two hours the day of his death.

"On Monday, it will be two years since my brother passed away," said Daniel Colbert, "and we're still trying to figure out how this happened or how they could have let it happen."

Colbert's family said the lawsuit isn't just about getting justice for Colbert. They're hoping it spares other families from experiencing similar pain.

"It shouldn't have ever happened the first time," said Daniel Colbert. "And for it to happen that many times, they need to be held accountable for what happened and really it shouldn't happen to people after this."

"My son should have walked out of that jail," said Laura Colbert. "I never saw my son alive again."

A Cuyahoga County spokesperson said the county had not seen the lawsuit, but the legal department would review it once it is received.

Continuing Coverage of the County Jail here.

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