GRAND FORKS — A former Grand Forks County correctional officer is the latest person to deny the allegations laid out in a 2019 lawsuit, which alleges several Grand Forks County Correctional Center staff members failed to protect a now-former inmate, who claims his unheeded warnings about a fellow inmate left him hospitalized after an attack in 2017.
In a response filed earlier this month, Ian Woods joined other jail staff in claiming that plaintiff Donald Forschen Jr. "distorted and misrepresented the events, circumstances of the subject incident and interactions" with the defendants.
Grand Forks County, Grand Forks County Correctional Center Administrator Bret Burkholder, Capt. Linda Wagner, Sgt. Jessica Grosz and correctional officers Nadine Gowan, Robert Sutton, Marvin Miller and Woods also are named as defendants in the civil case.
According to the civil complaint, originally filed in U.S. District Court in October 2019, Forschen was incarcerated at GFCCC at the same time as Randy Miles, an Iowa man who would later plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for throwing gasoline on his stepson. During his incarceration in Grand Forks, he repeatedly told other inmates that he planned to "catch a murder charge" in an effort to prevent his extradition back to Iowa, the complaint states.
The complaint goes on to allege that Miles told other inmates he planned to attack a talk therapist employed at GFCCC while he was alone with her in her office. Forschen stated he immediately reported the threat, and GFCCC staff took action to protect the therapist.
Forschen later asked a correctional officer to "keep an eye on Miles, because he thinks he will have a psychotic break" and because he kept picking fights with other inmates, including threatening to fight Forschen.
Two days later, Miles got the attention of a correctional officer and asked if he could have his scheduled medication early, saying "I'm hearing voices and I really needed my medications," according to the complaint. He also told the correctional officer that the voices were telling him to hit someone with a mop ringer. The correctional officer told Miles he would have to wait a few hours to take his medication, the complaint states.
About 10 minutes later, Miles was seen on surveillance footage striking Forschen twice in the back of the head with a mop ringer, then choking Forschen, according to court documents. The complaint states that, as punishment for the attack, Miles was given 19.5 days of lockdown, and Forschen was not penalized because video evidence showed he fought back in self-defense.
After the fight, Forschen told correctional officers he was experiencing pain, dizziness, nausea and blurry vision in his right eye, requested medical assistance and was taken to the ER at Altru Hospital, an incident report shows. He was given X-rays and a CT scan, which all came back "good," the report states, and Forschen was released back to the jail. Forschen also told jail staff that he did not want to press charges against Miles, but did want to press charges against the jail, according to the report.
The complaint states that, as a result of the attack, Forschen suffered injuries to his head, neck, back and right eye and continues to suffer from PTSD and ringing in his ears. He also incurred more than $75,000 in medical expenses, according to documents.
The complaint accuses the defendants of denial of due process in his right to be free from attack by other inmates. The complaint claims that the actions of jail staff surpassed "mere negligence," and that their response to Forschen's concerns were "so grossly incompetent and inadequate so as to shock the conscience."
The complaint also accuses Burkholder of failing to adequately train correctional center employees to investigate, evaluate and assess risk to inmates and their safety.
A pretrial conference has been scheduled for Jan. 11.