BELTRAMI COUNTY, Minn. — Bruce Lundmark’s family is making good on his last wishes.
As his brother went through Lundmark’s belongings following his death three years ago, he found a note that read, “if I die, sue the (expletive) out of the Beltrami jail.”
A KARE 11 Investigation revealed that the 63-year-old Lundmark spent days in the Beltrami County Jail suffering in pain and begging for medical care that never came, before he was shipped off to the Clearwater County Jail and died within hours.
Last month, Lundmark’s family filed a federal lawsuit against Beltrami and Clearwater Counties, as well as their private, for-profit medical provider at the time, MeND Correctional Care, accusing them all of negligence and medical malpractice leading to Lundmark’s death.
MeND and its founder and president, Todd Leonard, have been under fire following KARE 11’s reporting on numerous deaths on the company’s watch. In January, the state medical board indefinitely suspended Leonard’s license for negligent care related to the 2018 death of another Beltrami County inmate, Hardel Sherrell.
Like Lundmark, Sherrell also died after days of not getting medical care while suffering for days in excruciating pain.
“What I see going on in Beltrami County is just complete disregard for human life,” said attorney Zorislav Leyderman, who represents the families in the Sherrell and Lundmark lawsuits.
Lundmark’s death did not initially appear suspicious. The Vietnam-era navy veteran’s life-long battles with alcohol and substance abuse landed him in the Beltrami County Jail in July 2019.
An autopsy conducted the day after his death found that he died from natural causes. The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) reviewed the death and found no violations.
But KARE 11 discovered that the DOC failed to review the jail’s medical records. Those records, along with others obtained by KARE 11, showed that Lundmark’s pain, numbness in the left side of his body and sky-high blood pressure should have seen him get emergency medical attention, according to experts who reviewed the case.
The night before his death, surveillance video showed Lundmark doubled over in pain. At one point, he fashioned his sheet into a makeshift sling on his bunk, trying to use it to lay against and take pressure off his abdomen.
His suffering was so bad that his fellow inmates told jailers that something needed to be done. Yet Lundmark never saw so much as a nurse, let alone a doctor.
“It was negligent,” said Dr. Laura Lehmann, a specialist in emergency medicine.
“I wouldn’t treat my worst enemy this way,” said Melissa Becker, a forensic nurse examiner. “He didn’t receive any care; he received no care while he was there.”
Instead, due to overcrowding, Beltrami put Lundmark in shackles and sent him to Clearwater County.
Shortly after arriving there, Lundmark became unresponsive and began throwing up what guards described as a “brown tobacco like liquid.” He stopped breathing and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“He had a G-I bleed and he bled to death internally, and no one did anything about it,” Becker said.
“Nobody did anything to help him,” said Lundmark’s niece, Tamara Poppy. “That’s really traumatizing for all of us to think of him spending his last days like that.”
Leonard has repeatedly refused interview requests about the deaths under his company’s watch and did not respond when KARE 11 emailed both him and his company about this lawsuit.
Both Clearwater and Beltrami Counties have ended their contracts with MeND, which remains under active state and federal investigations for Sherrell’s death.
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