Mom Says Her Son Died Because Miami Police Took Him to Jail Instead of Hospital

Rocky Costello, age 34, died from his injuries after his car crashed into a tree in downtown Miami.
Rocky Costello, age 34, died from his injuries after his car crashed into a tree in downtown Miami. Photo illustration by Michael Campina
By the time Miami police found Rocky Costello the afternoon of December 20, 2017, the 34-year-old was unconscious. The officers pulled him from his car, which had struck a tree near Biscayne Boulevard and NE Third Street. Then they arrested Costello and hauled him off to a Miami Police Department station.

The crash occurred at about 5 p.m., but Costello wasn't transported to jail until nearly 8:30 that night. An intake nurse refused to book him — according to her, he needed immediate medical attention. An hour later, Costello was taken to the trauma center at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Apparently, it was too little, too late: Six days later, he died from his injuries.

His mother, Catherine Costello, is now suing various Miami-Dade County and City of Miami agencies. She says emergency responders failed to get her son the immediate medical attention he required after the crash.

"Rocky Costello needed urgent emergent medical care and needed to be taken from the scene of the accident directly to the hospital," her attorney, Lisa Levine, wrote in a December 19 memo to city and county authorities. The lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court the following day.

Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez says the city has not yet been served with the complaint.

"We hope to successfully defend the City in court," she wrote in an email to New Times.

Joni A. Mosely, an assistant county attorney, says Miami-Dade County does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit, Miami police arrested Rocky Costello at the scene of the crash and took him to a downtown police station nearby. After roughly three hours, officers drove him to the county's main jail, the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, located near Miami International Airport.

It was there that the intake nurse refused to admit Costello and called for emergency medical services. First responders from Miami Fire-Rescue arrived at 9:33 p.m., according to the suit. Only then was Costello taken to Jackson for treatment.

It's unclear from the lawsuit and court records why police arrested Costello the day of the crash. But August 8, 2017, just a few months earlier, he was arrested on drug-possession charges and accused of driving with a suspended license. Court records show he was expected to enter a plea December 27, 2017.

He died a day earlier.

Catherine Costello is now asking the city and county to pay for her son's medical and funeral expenses and for her mental pain and suffering. As of now, no court dates have been set in the case.
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb