- Associated Press - Sunday, June 15, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The family of an Orleans Parish inmate who died after a jailhouse fight has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The lawsuit alleges that deputies used pepper spray on 40-year-old Willie Lee after he complained about chest pains and trouble breathing. It also alleges that the deputies beat and kicked him before his death in March.

Attorneys Allen Davis and Dallon Bush II say the lawsuit filed May 23 for Lee’s mother and daughter is based on several sources, including a letter from another inmate to Lee’s family.

That letter says jail staff did not call paramedics until more than an hour after Lee collapsed, according to Nola.comThe Times-Picayune (https://bit.ly/1lElYUZ ), which was provided a copy on condition that it not report the inmate’s name.

The letter is a “complete fabrication” and the jail has video that “completely contradicts these allegations,” said Gusman spokesman Phil Stelly.

There is “no evidence that pepper spray was deployed,” he said. Stelly did not answer questions about whether any inmates or employees faced disciplinary actions or a criminal investigation in connection with the incident.

The news organization said it requested copies of video recordings, reports and photos in the case but had not received a response by Friday afternoon.

The lawsuit, still in an early stage, does not contain any documentation supporting the claims.

The Lee family seeks unspecified damages.

“It’s not about no money - it’s about justice,” said Lee’s mother, Margie Lee Hullitt. “No money at all can bring him back. He was killed in there.”

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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