Woman files lawsuit against Gila County Sheriff’s Office for jail stay


A 63-year-old woman has filed a lawsuit against the Gila County Sheriff’s Office alleging she was falsely imprisoned, assaulted and the county intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon her after she was forced to drink toilet water in the county jail.

Tamara Barnicoat, a grandmother who lives in Miami, Arizona, was arrested on Oct. 10, 2019, during a mental health crisis, the lawsuit said. She spent 27 days without her medication prescribed to treat bipolar disorder and depression before a judge dismissed her charges and she was able to return home.

During her 27-day stay in jail, the lawsuit alleges Barnicoat experienced multiple civil rights violations, including being forced to drink water from a toilet. At her initial court appearance on Oct. 11, 2019, the lawsuit said, Barnicoat was only wearing a flimsy light blue shirt without pants, underwear, socks or shoes.

The lawsuit said that, although Barnicoat was having a clear mental health crisis, Gila County deputies “violently and forcefully” placed her into a restraint chair instead of calling for a nurse, medical or psychological staff. Barnicoat was still mostly naked and deputies placed a blanket over her to “cover her nakedness.”

It is not known how long she was held without proper clothing, but according to the lawsuit, Deputy Brooke Griffin found Barnicoat in her cell on Oct. 14, 2019, in the same dressing as the day of her initial court appearance — only a light blue shirt — without a mattress or other visible items.

Barnicoat was denied a working toilet, clothing, mattress, blanket, shower, medical or psychological treatment and drinking water, which “forced her to scoop putrid water from a filthy jail toilet to quench her extreme thirst.” 

“Most people who are in jail are presumed innocent, they haven’t been convicted of anything. And they’re just starting the process in the criminal justice system. We should expect some basic human rights and civil rights to be protected,” said Robert Campos, Barnicoat’s attorney.

Sheriff Adam Shepard and jail Cmdr. Justin Solberg admitted to ABC15, which first reported the story, that Barnicoat’s constitutional rights were violated under the Eighth Amendment, which protects American citizens from cruel and unusual punishment. 

“I have not encountered a case where the inmate who’s presumed innocent and has no charges has to resort to drinking out of a toilet. And I have never encountered a case where the sheriff on television confesses that he did in fact violate and inmate’s rights,” said Campos.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Office referred The Arizona Republic to the Arizona County Insurance Pool for comment on the lawsuit. Officials did not respond by the time of publication.

The lawsuit said Barnicoat’s cell had been been given a “dry-cell” status, meaning Barnicoat’s water had been…

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