Estate of Terrorist Killed by COVID in Lompoc Prison Sues Warden, Staff

Mohamed Yusuf Was Denied Medical Care and Left to Die, Complaint Alleges

Lompoc Prison | Credit: Courtesy

The estate of Mohamed Yusuf, a convicted terrorist who was serving an 11-year sentence at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex when he died of COVID-19, is pursuing a lawsuit against the prison, its warden, and its staff for allegedly allowing him to suffer and succumb to the disease without providing proper medical care.

Yusuf was 37 years old, married with three children, and in “sturdy health” when he tested positive for the coronavirus on May 7, 2020, the lawsuit states. At the time, in the early days of the pandemic, the prison complex was experiencing a massive outbreak that ultimately killed five inmates and sickened more than 1,200, more than any other correctional setting in the country. 

Yusuf’s condition quickly deteriorated to the point he was “visibly weakened and chronically and desperately short of breath,” the complaint reads. For two weeks before his death, he was too ill to retrieve his own meals, so other inmates would bring him food in his bunk. “While correctional staff knew of the Decedent’s dire need for help,” the lawsuit states, “they did not provide prompt and appropriate care and assistance, and some joked about the matter, going so far as to call the Decedent a ‘faker’ and a ‘wimp.’” 

On May 25, the day he died, fellow inmates reported Yusuf gasping for air and praying. Eventually, he lost consciousness, and they yelled for help. No emergency medical aid was provided by prison staff, however, including oxygen administration, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or advanced cardiac life support, the lawsuit claims. 

This summer, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) settled a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of inmates against the Bureau of Prisons that claimed the federal agency failed on multiple fronts to respond to the outbreak. One of those inmates, Yonnedil Torres, was also denied timely medical aid after contracting a severe case of COVID-19. He collapsed in his cell with acute respiratory shock and suffered permanent lung damage.

Yusuf’s case is now winding its way through court with another hearing scheduled next month. At the time of his death, he had about a year left on his sentence. A naturalized Swedish citizen, Yusuf had traveled to Somalia in 2008 intending to wage violent jihad on U.N.-sanctioned and Somali forces that were attempting to bring stability to the war-torn country, according to the U.S. Department of Justice

Once in Somalia, Yusuf participated in numerous attacks on government forces as a member of al-Shabaab, a group designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, and he appeared in a recruiting video aimed at inducing young Muslim men in Western countries to leave their homes and join al-Shabaab. He also reportedly threatened a cartoonist who had depicted the prophet Muhammad. Yusuf and two other defendants were apprehended in East Africa in 2012 by local authorities while on their way to Yemen and extradited to the United States.

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