By Julie Montanaro
October 3, 6:55pm
The Tallahassee Police Department has been sued for negligence after a man stopped for loud music died in custody.
Josh Washington died after swallowing two bags of cocaine. His family is now in court, claiming police should have sought medical attention for Washington as soon as he threw up in the back of a police cruiser.
The civil suit started Tuesday morning. In the front row was Josh Washington's mother Sally, his longtime girlfriend Stacey Reddings, and Washington's daughter Joshalyn, who was just eight days old when he died.
"Driving in Tallahassee while playing loud music should not be a death sentence," said family attorney Pat Frank in his opening statements to the jury.
Attorneys for the family say that night in March 2003, Washington was pulled over off Blair Stone Road and five hours later was declared dead with a baggie of cocaine in his stomach.
Attorneys claim officers on scene could have prevented that if they had gotten medical help for Washington immediately after he threw up in the back of OFC Bergeron's patrol car.
"The Tallahassee Police Department, through its Officers Bergeron and Holton, absolutely knew, or at the very least should have known, that Mr. Washington had somehow ingested drugs," Frank said.
Yet attorneys for the City of Tallahassee say Washington said no when officers asked if he had swallowed any drugs, and beyond some drooling, officers say Washington didn't show any signs of medical distress before he was taken to jail.
"He (Officer Bergeron) specifically asked Mr. Washington if he had swallowed any drugs and Mr. Washington shook his head no," argued Jim Floyd, who is representing the City of Tallahassee in the lawsuit.
The Tallahassee Police Department contends Washington swallowed the cocaine to avoid getting in more trouble and should have told someone, but Washington's family says the signs were there and ignored by Tallahassee Police.
The civil suit is expected to last the rest of the week.