Jail inmate who died at Regions Hospital had swallowed drugs, affidavit says

Arrested after a traffic stop, Philip J. Derks was acting oddly at the Ramsey County jail before being taken to the hospital. Friend said he ate the drugs to hide them from cops.

 

A Ramsey County jail inmate was acting oddly after his arrest in late November, prompting authorities to transport him to Regions Hospital where he died the next day, possibly from swallowing drugs.

St. Paul police stopped a vehicle that Philip J. Derks, 32, was riding in about 5:02 p.m. on Nov. 28, according to a search warrant affidavit filed Friday in Ramsey County District Court. Police stopped the car for a traffic violation and arrested Derks, a passenger, and his friend, the driver, after a plastic bag containing an unknown substance was allegedly thrown out the passenger window.

According to the affidavit: Police conducted a presumptive test on the substance and it tested positive for suspected methamphetamine. The two men were transported to the county jail about 6:15 p.m., and Derks appeared responsive.

Derks’ friend alerted jail staff that Derks needed medical attention, and the jail’s medical unit was notified about 6:42 p.m. that a nurse was needed. Jail staff noted that Derks didn’t appear to be under duress, but he was fidgety and starting to sweat, according to the affidavit.

Derks spoke with the nurse, mentioned the prescription drug Adderall but “refused to answer other questions,” the affidavit said. Derks was moved to a segregation cell for closer observation, where he began to grow “even more restless, became very pale, and was sweaty,” according to court documents.

Derks was transported to Regions at 7:41 p.m. He died at Regions about 2:05 p.m. on Nov. 29.

Derks’ friend told a sheriff’s deputy on Nov. 29 that Derks had swallowed an unknown amount of drugs to hide them from police when the car was stopped the previous day, the affidavit said.

“…[He] told jail staff that he didn’t inform anyone about Philip James Derks ingesting drugs because he didn’t want Philip James Derks to look bad,” the affidavit said.

“We get a lot of people who are under the influence of various chemicals and substances who are admitted into the jail,” said Randy Gustafson, spokesman for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.

Jail staff are trained to look for warning signs in case medics need to intervene, he said. The jail also has an on-site medical clinic to care for inmates.

“I believe that they did everything in their power that they were able to do,” Gustafson said of the staff’s handling of the incident.

Investigators are waiting for toxicology results from the medical examiner’s office, Gustafson said.

Authorities filed the search warrant to collect Derks’ medical records. No cause of death was listed in the affidavit.

Derks, who has a long criminal history that includes convictions for low-level drug possession, theft and domestic abuse, has been listed in court documents as a St. Paul resident and as homeless.

Derks’ friend has not been charged in connection with the November traffic stop.

 

chao.xiong@startribune.com 612-270-4708 • Twitter: @ChaoStrib

nicole.norfleet@startribune.com 612-673-4495 • Twitter: @stribnorfleet

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