Family files lawsuit over Kauai woman’s death in jail

HONOLULU — The family of a Kauai woman who killed herself in view of jail surveillance cameras has filed a lawsuit against the police department that was holding her.

Leslie Lutao, 59, took her life while in Kauai Police Department custody following her June 2017 arrest for a traffic warrant, Hawaii News Now reported.

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An autopsy report listed Lutao’s cause of death as asphyxia due to foreign body obstruction.

Attorney Michael Green filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lutao’s husband and her four grown children.

A video of the interior of Lutao’s jail cell showed her entering shortly before 12 p.m. and trying for more than an hour to kill herself. Paramedics arrived around 2:40 p.m. and began attempts to resuscitate her, Hawaii News Now reported.

Officers assigned to monitor cameras should have noticed Lutao’s behavior prior to her death in one of the jail’s six cells, Green said.

“If they had been there earlier, I have no doubt they could have saved her,” Green said.

Jessica Lancaster, Lutao’s daughter, said her mother suffered from depression.

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Kauai police responded to an attempt by Lutao to kill herself the year before and therefore should have placed her on suicide watch, during which officers consistently monitor a person, Lancaster said.

The Kauai Police Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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