HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Relatives of a Harris County Jail inmate are upset that they weren’t told he was critically ill with COVID-19 until it was too late.

Damian Lopez, 29, had been detained in the Harris County Jail since December 2021 for misdemeanor exposure. There were also jurisdictional issues due to mental illness, according to court documents.

His family told ABC13 he contracted COVID in February, which court documents confirm. They were notified on March 7 when Lopez was already unconscious and on a ventilator. They say it was too late and are heartbroken that they missed his last moments of consciousness. Lopez died on March 25.

“We went to see him but we couldn’t talk to him,” said his sister, Onisa Lopez.

“I just wish we knew sooner,” said her twin brother, Hugo Lopez.

In response, the Harris County Sheriff‘s Office told ABC13 the family was notified as soon as they knew it was serious.

According to their timeline, Damian Lopez was hospitalized on February 21.

On March 7, a doctor told the department that Damian Lopez’s prognosis was not good and the family should be notified. A chaplain made contact. They also requested, according to the sheriff’s office, a compassionate release. Instead, a personal bond was granted on March 9 and he was released from Harris County custody, but Damian Lopez never left the hospital.

“The Harris County Sheriff’s Office extends its condolences to Mr. Lopez’s family for their loss,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Damian Lopez’s family regrets that their brother’s situation was not handled differently.

“Was he going to see the nurse over there?” Did they know he had COVID? Did they wait for the situation to get worse? said Onisa Lopez. “He really didn’t do anything to deserve to end up like this.”
You can read the full statement from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office below:

“The Harris County Sheriff’s Office extends its condolences to Mr. Lopez’s family for their loss. In response to your questions, Texas law prohibits the Sheriff’s Office from commenting on the symptoms that led to Mr. Lopez in February 2022 at a local hospital, the Mr. Lopez’s medical history, his underlying health conditions and other protected health information On March 7, 2022, St. Joseph’s Hospital first contacted the sheriff’s office regarding Mr. Lopez and the severity of his condition.

The Sheriff’s Office chaplaincy team unsuccessfully attempted to contact Mr. Lopez’s family using next of kin information provided by Mr. Lopez during his last two bookings at the jail‘s facilities in the Harris County. When those efforts failed, the HCSO chaplaincy team found information about the family members by searching records from another county department. Given the efforts of the HCSO chaplaincy team, contact with Mr. Lopez’s family was made within hours of notification by the hospital.

At the time Mr. Lopez died, he had been on bail for over two weeks and was not in the custody of the sheriff’s office.”

For more on this story, follow Jessica Willey on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.

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