Son of inmate who died in JSO custody settles with city of Jacksonville, sheriff

Settlement in death of Paul Testa

The son of a mentally ill Jacksonville inmate, who died after being shocked with a stun gun and strapped into a restraint chair, reached a settlement with the city and the sheriff on Thursday.

Paul Testa was found unresponsive in the restraint chair in Dec. 2015.

Action News Jax has been investigating what led up to his death ever since.

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Paul Testa’s son, Christian Testa, filed a lawsuit because he believed his father’s death inside the jail was preventable.

Christian Testa said the last words his father said to him were, “I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

That was before the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested Paul Testa on trespassing and criminal mischief charges.

Hours after the arrest, a judge dropped the charges, saying he needed mental health help, not jail.

Paul Testa never got that help.

JSO death investigation documents say Paul Testa started fighting with corrections officers after that court appearance, even trying to grab one officer’s Taser.

Corrections officers reportedly shocked him with a Taser, then strapped him into a restraint chair.

After Testa was strapped in, officers said he stopped breathing.

He was transported to the hospital.

“My dad was in the bed, choked out so bad that his eyes were popping out of his head. I mean, I knew right there that he was gone,” said Christian Testa.

In an exclusive interview with Action News Jax, Christian Testa’s attorney Ted Pina said part of the reason they settled instead of going to trial was a lack of surveillance video.

“There were a lot of issues of proof in this case that were difficult also. We had no video. So, in terms of proving exactly what happened that night at the jail, it was very difficult,” said Pina.

Pina showed Action News Jax a deposition transcript of an interview with a former jail employee who says more cameras have been added since Testa’s death.

“I don’t think or believe that was in response to this incident, per se, but you know, it certainly is something that may have been more helpful in this case, if those had been there before,” said Pina.

A JSO spokesperson would not confirm to Action News Jax whether it has added cameras or why.

Action News Jax asked JSO spokesperson Melissa Bujeda whether any policies at the jail have changed since Paul Testa’s death.

Bujeda said we would have to request policies at the time of his death, then request the current policies and look for any changes ourselves.

We’ve put in a series of public records requests.

Bujeda said Sheriff Mike Williams was not available for an interview on Thursday about Paul Testa’s death. Action News Jax asked if he was available on Friday or any day next week. We have not heard back.

Pina said he cannot discuss details of the settlement agreement, including the settlement amount, because it’s confidential.