Daytona Beach, FL – The City of Daytona Beach is now demanding a jury trial after it was sued for wrongful death by the family of a man who choked himself in a police transport van earlier this year and died soon afterward.
Francis A. Mercuri’s death came six days after a run-in with police on February 20th at Bellair Plaza, according to the complaint filed by his father last month with the Florida 7th Judicial Circuit.
That complaint alleges that the Daytona Beach Police Department was negligent when restraining the 43-year-old man during a service call where Mercuri was displaying “odd and erratic” behavior in the parking lot of Bellair Plaza, which is on State Road A1A around a half-mile south of Seabreeze High School.
According to the complaint, Mercuri was left alone in the van for an “extended” period of time by the officers who took him into custody, which is when he pulled out a shoelace, wrapped it around his neck and tried to asphyxiate himself. Officers eventually discovered what he was doing and took him to a nearby hospital, where he eventually died from his injuries.
Mercuri’s family also contends that DBPD “breached its duty” to Mercuri by failing to recognize his mental instability and not checking up on him more often so that any suicide attempt could have been prevented.
Current DBPD policy does call for removing shoes with laces from any prisoners who are being transported, but that was amended after this incident.
In its official response filed November 29th, the city denied those claims and implied that its defense would include that Mercuri was using alcohol at the time of the police encounter.
Mercuri’s estate is seeking $15,000 for damages, not including legal costs.
The office of Florida 7th Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza decided not to pursue the matter any further in June after reviewing this report on the incident from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
No court date has been set at this time, according to the Volusia Clerk of the Circuit Court website.