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Veronica Yearby, the mother of David Yearby, who died in police custody last November filed suit  in New Brunswick on Tuesday. Named as defendants are Middlesex County, Piscataway police and employees at the Middlesex County jail. The 23-page complaint alleges that they are responsible for the treatment Mr. Yearby received at the jail that caused the broken neck that led to his death.   An autopsy found the cause of death was “blunt force trauma of head and neck with cervical fracture and spinal cord injury.” The complaint also states that Yearby was maced, beaten, hooded and strapped to the restraint chair before he died of a broken neck at the county jail.

Yearby’s attorney, Gregg Zeff, said the defendants deprived Yearby of his civil rights under the N.J. Constitution.

“This case involves the tragic and avoidable death of David Eric Yearby,” the lawsuit said. “David’s mental health condition was treated by defendants as a crime, punishable by death.”Yearby, 27, disappeared from the apartment he shared with his brother on Oct. 31, 2014, according to the complaint.

He suffered from a mental condition that required medical treatment, the lawsuit said, adding when his family discovered he was arrested by Piscataway police for assaulting two officers, his family was relieved.

The lawsuit states David’s sister notified police about his condition and the need for mental health treatment, but “instead of treatment, they took him to (the county jail).”

“No one at the Piscataway Police Department informed officials at (the county jail) of Yearby’s mental condition or need for mental health attention,” the lawsuit said.  The complaint contends that at the time of the transfer to the county jail, Yearby “possessed full function of his arms and shoulders” and had “not suffered a cervical fracture or spinal cord injury.”

The complaint said Yearby was disruptive, attempting to clog his toilet on Nov. 1 and refusing to leave his cell when maintenance arrived to fix it. A special extraction team of officers removed him from the cell for medical treatment, but found no weakness in his upper arms or legs.

He was placed in an inmate restraint chair.

According to the lawsuit, the manufacturer’s guide explicitly restricts inmates’ time to be spent in the chair to two hours, but Yearby was confined in the chair for nine hours with regular monitoring by officers and medical staff.

Yearby’s mother said on Tuesday at a press conference in New Brunswick after filing her lawsuit that “[t]hey should have gotten him the help he needed.” Veronica Yearby said “I want other young men with mental health issues to get the help they need when they get arrested. This has got to stop.”

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