Last year’s death by suicide of inmate Richard H. Bild at the Washington County jail took place after numerous red flags were ignored, including his threats to kill himself and an attempt by another inmate to prevent him from doing so, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
The suit, which seeks $8 million in damages, names as defendants Washington County staffers who treated Bild during his time at the jail, along with the jail’s commander and Washington County.
Bild, 45, jumped from a second-level balcony to his death inside the Stillwater jail three days after he was arrested June 26, 2018, in Forest Lake. He had driven his car into a Forest Lake house occupied by a woman who was or had been his partner before dousing himself in gasoline and threatening police officers who were called to the scene. Bild later told authorities that he had used narcotics, methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol and had not slept for days.
The suit alleges that he was obviously unwell the day he was arrested and should have gone to an emergency room or a psychiatric unit rather than the jail.
Bild had four children who at the time of his death were 29, 23, 8 and 6 years old.
He was jailed on charges including arson, property damage and making terroristic threats, and he was ordered to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment.
He told arresting authorities that he planned to kill himself, according to the suit, and was placed in clothing known as a suicide gown. The gown is made of thick material that cannot be used to form a noose.
Bild continued to talk about suicide and answered affirmatively when asked if he was considering it. He was then led to the C400 cellblock, which has two floors and an open staircase. The architectural arrangement of the cellblock was known to the jail staff as a possible site for a suicide attempt, and the jail had so-called jump mats for suicidal inmates who might attempt to jump from the top of the stairs, according to the lawsuit, but the mats were not immediately deployed.
Five minutes after he was taken to his cell, Bild can be seen on jail video images wandering out of his cell and walking throughout the cellblock area, including the staircase. He wore a suicide gown for two days as he was allowed to walk around and interact with other prisoners, the suit says.
He was called “madman” by some of the other inmates because of his obviously troubled mental health, the suit said.
A nurse who interviewed Bild two days after he arrived at the jail determined that he could be given regular clothes again, and he changed out of the suicide gown.
At one point, it was another inmate, Vanholy Var, who tried to prevent Bild’s suicide by keeping him away from a cart of janitorial supplies. Var told a Washington County Sheriff’s Office detective that Bild wanted to take a broomstick from the cart to use in a suicide attempt. Var told the detective that he signaled to a jail official who was watching them from a control room adjacent to the cellblock but didn’t get a response. Var ended up moving a chair next to the janitorial cart and taking a seat so Bild couldn’t take things from the cart.
A nurse interviewed Bild a few hours before he killed himself and noted that “suicidality is significant and unclear,” according to the suit. Bild eventually told Var that he was going to kill himself and climbed the stairs. Var implored him not to jump for about three minutes as Bild stood on a second-floor stairway railing. Bild eventually jumped, and Var injured his arm trying to catch him.
Bild was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul and declared dead about four hours later.