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Suit filed in 2008 death of prison inmate

PHOENIX (AP) — More than a year after the death of an inmate at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, his family has filed a lawsuit alleging that guards denied him medical attention for respiratory problems for several days.

The suit also alleges that 39-year-old Manual Ballesteros wasn’t transported in a timely manner to a nearby hospital, which ultimately resulted in his death in January 2008.

The defendants are listed as the state, the Department of Corrections and the Buckeye Valley Fire District.

According to the suit, Ballesteros became ill with respiratory problems on Jan. 13, 2008, and his condition worsened over the next five days.

He requested medical attention but was told to “just stay in bed and drink plenty of fluids,” the lawsuit states.

The suit also said Ballesteros continued to request medical attention but was repeatedly told no doctors were available.

On Jan. 21, 2008, Ballesteros’ condition had deteriorated to the point where he could barely stand or walk, had trouble breathing, and was dizzy and weak, according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims that Ballesteros received the first medical attention about 4:30 p.m. that day, after he saw the medication nurse and was deemed in critical condition.

The suit said an ambulance from Buckeye Valley Fire District arrived about 4:50 p.m. and took Ballesteros to Maricopa Medical Center — more than 50 miles from the prison.

Ballesteros was treated at the hospital but died the next morning, according to authorities, who said the cause of death was pneumonia and sepsis due to a staph infection.

The family’s suit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleges Ballesteros’ death could have been prevented if the prison guards hadn’t neglected his requests for medical aid and he had been taken to a closer hospital.

The family is seeking damages for its emotional and financial loss, grief, and medical, funeral and burial expenses.

Ballesteros had been in prison since May 1997. He was serving time for first-degree murder, arson and multiple charges of felony aggravated assault and endangerment stemming from a firebombing at a Phoenix apartment complex in 1993.

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