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Newton County, Neosho officials to pay $630,000 to mother, children of Joplin man who died in county jail

The Turner Report

This blog features observations from Randy Turner, a former teacher, newspaper reporter and editor. Send news items or comments to rturner229@hotmail.com

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The mother and children of a former Joplin resident who died June 29, 2018 in the Newton County Jail will receive a $630,000 settlement, according to documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Kristina Stockton, the mother of Forrest Stockton, and his two children Gatlan Stockton and Adelyn Cervin, will each receive $210,000, minus attorney fees and expenses.The Newton County Ambulance District and Newton County will each pay $300,000, with the City of Neosho responsible for the other $30,000, according to the settlement documents.

In the lawsuit, Stockton alleged Neosho and Newton County officials denied her son proper medical care during a medical episode that occurred while he was high on meth.

Following the death of Stockton, 30, Newton County Sheriff Ken Jennings said suicide had been ruled out as a cause, but he may have died of a drug overdose.

Kristina Stockton alleged negligence by Newton County Ambulance, Newton County Sheriff’s Office and Neosho Police Department employees, says the city and county failed to properly train employees and claimed her son was denied medical care.

All of them should have recognized there was a serious problem, the lawsuit claims.

Listed as defendants in the lawsuit are Newton County Ambulance, Newton County, City of Neosho, EMT Dennis Lake, paramedic Bryan Smith, Newton County Sheriff’s Office employees Kelse Renner, Michael Barnett, Steve Lee and Tessa White and Neosho Police Department officers Cody Bunch, Dustin Doty and Rodney Howe.

The details of the allegations are spelled out in the petition:

On June 29, 2018, Defendants Bunch and Doty, commissioned officers with Neosho PD, were dispatched in reference to a disturbance.

They arrived at the dispatch location at approximately 6:01 pm and made contact with Forrest Stockton in the yard of a residence.

Defendants Bunch and Doty immediately noted that Mr. Stockton was lying in the side yard, rolling around, yelling incoherently. His breathing was labored.

Defendant Bunch stated that he believed that Mr. Stockton was “under the influence” but was unsure of the substance. Defendant Bunch watched as Mr. Stockton stood up and leaned against a fence while swaying back and forth.

Mr. Stockton kept jerking his body and moving sporadically. Mr. Stockton then fell on his back and again began rolling around. While rolling around, Mr. Stockton spit up what Defendant Bunch believed to be blood. Defendant Bunch called dispatch for an ambulance from Defendant NCAD.

Defendants Bunch and Doty observed Mr. Stockton continue to roll around on the ground yelling incoherently. Defendant Doty asked Mr. Stockton his name, and Mr. Stockton replied, “Forrest.” Mr. Stockton was intermittently able to communicate notwithstanding long periods of severe delirium.

According to Defendants Bunch and Doty, Mr. Stockton continued yelling unintelligible words and grunting between statements. Defendant Doty asked Mr. Stockton his last name, and Mr. Stockton replied, “Stockton.”

Defendants Bunch and Doty noted that Mr. Stockton was wet and muddy with ridged muscle tone. He was sweating profusely. Mr. Stockton moved to the backyard and continued to alternately stand, fall, sit, lie down, yell and roll around. His breathing continued to be labored.

Defendant Howe, a commissioned officer and detective with Neosho PD, arrived to assist Defendants Bunch and Doty. Defendant Howe observed Mr. Stockton rolling around on the ground. Defendant Howe stated that he believed Mr. Stockton was on some kind of narcotics based upon the way he was rolling around in the dirt and yelling. Defendant Howe further observed Mr. Stockton yelling unintelligibly and sweating profusely.

At 6:22 p.m., Defendants Lake and Smith, licensed EMS providers with NCAD, arrived to assess Mr. Stockton. Defendant Howe continued to observe Mr. Stockton’s erratic conduct and his interactions with Defendants Bunch, Doty, Lake and Smith.

Defendants Bunch and Doty placed handcuffs on Mr. Stockton without incident for an assessment by Defendants Lake and Smith. Mr. Stockton cooperated while Defendants Lake and Smith stood apart from him and they looked in his nose and mouth for blood. They found none.