Parents of John Adena, Shasta County Jail Inmate Beaten to Death By Deputies, File Federal Civil Rights Wrongful Death Lawsuit

OAKLAND, Calif., April 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Civil rights law firm Haddad & Sherwin LLP announced today it has filed a federal civil rights wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the parents of John Adena against Shasta County, its former Sheriff-Coroner Tom Bosenko, former jail commander Captain Dave Kent, several correctional deputies, the County’s for-profit jail medical provider Wellpath LLC, and three of its employees. The claim results from the beating death of 31-year-old John Adena, after a month in jail that involved repeated beatings by jail deputies. Mr. Adena was arrested on August 21, 2019, following a mental health incident in which he was accused of having ‘shoulder checked’ an employee at a local hospital.

Mr. Adena was repeatedly severely beaten by jail deputies throughout his time in jail. On September 16, 2019, he was sent to a local hospital with severe cuts to the back of his head. Jail deputies told hospital staff that Mr. Adena had fallen out of the top bunk bed in his jail cell. Two of the cuts were stapled by hospital staff and deputies transported Mr. Adena back to jail. He was placed into a safety cell because jail medical staff did not believe the cuts would come from a single fall from the top bunk, and Mr. Adena always slept on the bottom bunk.  

On September 18, 2019, Mr. Adena’s parents, Circe and Richard Adena, attended Mr. Adena’s court date. Courtroom staff prohibited them from speaking to their son, but they saw the back of his head was bleeding. The judge determined there was a doubt about Mr. Adena’s mental competence, suspended the criminal proceedings against him but kept him in custody, and referred the case for a psychological evaluation of Mr. Adena pursuant to California Penal Code § 1368. The entire family was relieved that Mr. Adena would receive a mental health evaluation so he could get the mental healthcare he needed.

Three days later, Mr. Adena was removed from the safety cell, with no treatment plan to provide for his medical and mental health needs. That afternoon, he told Wellpath social worker Pam Johansen, “I am sick, I need to see medical. I am vomiting.” Ms. Johansen did nothing to get Mr. Adena the health care he desperately needed. The next morning, deputies and a Wellpath employee found Mr. Adena lying next to his toilet with purple or brown foam coming out of his mouth. Deputies dragged Mr. Adena, face down and handcuffed, out of his cell and into an elevator, with one deputy putting Mr. Adena’s legs into a painful figure-four control hold and two other deputies positioning themselves to block the elevator’s surveillance camera. Once Mr. Adena was dragged to the first floor medical unit, he turned purple and deputies began life-saving measures that were unsuccessful. Mr. Adena was pronounced dead at 5:45 a.m. on September 22, 2019.

Shasta County refused to give Mr. Adena’s family any information about his death for over a year. The family had to hire Haddad & Sherwin LLP just to get the autopsy report and photographs, which the County did not provide to them until November 2020, more than a year after Mr. Adena’s death.

The autopsy report and photos show Mr. Adena died as a result of being beaten by Shasta County deputies. In addition to the multiple cuts on the back of his head, Mr. Adena suffered a common carotid artery dissection in his left carotid artery, from trauma. He had extensive hemorraging on the right side of his neck, also from trauma, such as choking. He had multiple bruises from blunt force trauma on his head and face. His chest cavity was full of free blood. His legs, ankles and feet had severe bruising from blunt force trauma, including stomping on both feet and one ankle. He had handcuff marks that are consistent with having been beaten while handcuffed. And, he was smothered to the point that his teeth ripped into his lower lip.

One of the Adena family’s attorneys, Julia Sherwin, stated: “John Adena was a gentle man suffering from a recent onset of mental illness. Shasta County deputies severely beat John several times in jail, and brutalized him to the point of killing him, after he returned from the hospital following one of their beatings and was removed from the safety cell. Then the County covered it up for over a year, refusing to tell John’s parents why he died or even to give them the autopsy report and photos to which they are legally entitled. John’s family is committed to obtaining justice and accountability for his death.”

Another family attorney, Michael Haddad, says: “John Adena’s battered body bears witness to the unreported violence he suffered at the hands of Shasta County deputies.”

To interview attorneys Michael Haddad or Julia Sherwin of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, please call or email them as listed below. Statements by John Adena’s parents and two of his sisters are available at the end of this press release and upon request. To interview Mr. Adena’s sisters, please contact Michael Haddad or Julia Sherwin. The Adena family requests that media not contact them directly.

Founded in 1998 by Michael Haddad and Julia Sherwin, Haddad & Sherwin LLP is an Oakland law firm representing people in civil rights, police and jail misconduct, and wrongful death cases. For more information, visit


Michael Haddad or Julia Sherwin
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Family Statement and Complaint

A copy of the federal civil rights complaint, a statement from Adena family members, and some Adena family photos, are available here: