The central jail in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A man who was bitten in the face by a fellow inmate at the San Diego Central Jail is suing the county, alleging sheriff’s deputies did not intervene to stop the attack and that his subsequent attempts to receive medical care for his injuries were ignored.

Miguel Lucas, 26, lost a portion of his cheek in the June 4, 2019, attack, according to the suit filed Thursday in San Diego federal court.

San Diego County and a jail deputy identified only as Deputy Gustafson are named as defendants, along with multiple other unnamed deputies and a nurse.

Gustafson was working in the “security bubble” at the time Lucas was attacked, and witnessed the approximately 15-minute assault over surveillance monitors, but did nothing, the suit alleges.

The plaintiff also alleges that after the fight, Gustafson and other deputies posed for pictures with the bitten-off chunk of Lucas’ cheek and told him “he could have put up a better fight.”

Representatives for San Diego County and the sheriff’s department declined to comment, citing policies regarding pending litigation.

According to Lucas’ suit, his 35-year-old alleged attacker, Reginald Harmon, clearly suffered from mental health issues and should never have been placed in the mainline housing unit, where Lucas was housed.

Lucas and other inmates alerted deputies to Harmon’s behavior, and Harmon’s family also contacted the jail to notify staff of his mental health issues, according to the suit, which also alleges he attacked another inmate on June 1, the day he was booked.

In addition to causes of action related to Lucas’ injury, the lawsuit alleges a lack of adequate mental health resources for inmates and cites a number of suicides that have occurred in San Diego County jails over the past several years.

Following the attack, Lucas was advised by a physician’s assistant at Tri-City Medical Center to consult with a plastic surgeon within one to two days, as his face would not heal properly without surgical intervention, the suits says.

Lucas alleges a nurse failed to change his daily dressings, resulting in subsequent infections and a keloid scar.

His court papers also allege the county “purposefully allowed him to be permanently disfigured because they did not want to pay for the surgical consult that was ordered.”

According to the suit, Lucas tried to file three separate grievance forms regarding the attack and his medical needs, but each time the forms “went missing” in “an attempt to cover up their misconduct.”

Lucas filed a legal claim with the county in December, but the claim was rejected in March, according to the complaint.

–city News Service

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