Family of Gibson Benally, Who Was Killed at Arizona Jail, Announces Federal Lawsuit on Anniversary of His Wrongful Death

Gibson Benally, a 53-year-old Navajo man and father of three, died on April 18, 2022 after staff at Coconino County Jail refused to call an ambulance even though Mr. Benally was showing signs of a medical emergency.

Royalty-free photos are available for download below. (Credit to family of Gibson Benally)

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA – Today, the children of a Navajo man, who wrongfully died in custody after he was denied lifesaving emergency medical care, announced a federal lawsuit against Coconino County jail,the private healthcare provider AB Staffing Solutions LLC, and at least a dozen nurses and jailers for their deliberate indifference to his fatal medical crisis.

In the days and hours preceding Mr. Benally’s death, he repeatedly told medical staff of chest pains, dizziness, and shortness of breath, and was measured to have blood pressure at such a high level to be commonly treated as a hypertensive emergency. The lawsuit alleges that Coconino County jail medical staff withheld lifesaving care, even when non-medical staff and other detainees could see Mr. Benally’s life was in serious danger.

Starting April 17th, 2022, Mr. Benally reported problems with dizziness and shortness of breath. His symptoms continued for hours until the next day, when Mr. Benally was in such a state of crisis that he was surrounded by other detainees, who were trying to help him, by placing wet washcloths on his head and chest. Mr. Benally was hyperventilating so vigorously the jail cameras picked up his labored breathing. Instead of calling an ambulance, however, the nurse told Mr. Benally to calm down and repeatedly tried to leave his side, even though non-medical staff and other detainees could see his life was in serious danger. The nurse made no attempt to identify the cause of symptoms. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Benally died of an entirely preventable pulmonary embolism.

Mr. Benally’s death was preceded by weeks of inadequate medical care, both at the Coconino County jail and previously at the Navajo County jail.

Gibson Benally was a 53-year-old father of three children.

This lawsuit was brought by Mr. Benally’s daughter, Renalda Benally, who is the administrator of his estate and seeks justice for Mr. Benally’s preventable death.

“Being sent to jail should not be a death sentence,” said Renalda Benally. “My father should be alive with us today.”

“If he had been anywhere else, Gibson Benally would still be alive today,” said Steve Weil, one of the Benally family’s attorneys at Loevy + Loevy. “Refusing to get the right care for Mr. Benally when he was experiencing an obvious emergency was senseless.  It indicates a willingness to withhold medical care from people detained in jails, even if it puts their lives in danger.”

Renalda Benally is represented by Steve Weil, Megan Porter, and Maria Makar. Loevy + Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms, and over the past decade has won more multi-million-dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country. 

The Benally family is also represented by the Law Office of Lee Phillips, P.C., Northern Arizona’s leading criminal defense attorney.

A copy of the lawsuit, Renalda Benally, as Administrator of the Estate of Gibson Benally, v. Coconino County et al.., No. 24-cv-8049, is available here.

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Gibson Benally with his family.
Gibson Benally
Gibson Benally with family.

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