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Arizona woman files lawsuit after water turned off in cell

GLOBE, Ariz. — An Arizona woman has filed a lawsuit against the Gila County jail, saying she was held without criminal charges and forced to drink toilet water.

The lawsuit alleges false imprisonment, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Tamara Barnicoat, 63, was booked in the Globe facility in October 2019 while having a psychotic episode after being arrested on suspicion of trespassing and other minor crimes, KNXV-TV reported Thursday. The lawsuit said she was held for 27 days before being released because no criminal charges had been filed yet.

Because Barnicoat exhibited bizarre behavior, a jail employee decided to turn off water to her isolation cell, so she could not splash or cause a mess, the lawsuit said, adding that the employee did not properly log or inform coworkers and she was deprived of water for two days.

“I want them to change things at the jail because it was so devastating,” Barnicoat told KNXV-TV.

Her attorney Robert J. Campos said being mentally ill is not a crime, adding that “we should not put them in a jail, and forget about them, and throw away the key.”

The Gila County sheriff’s office and the county attorney said in an emailed response that they gave the case to the Arizona Counties Insurance Fund to handle.

Sheriff Adam Shepherd previously admitted to jail staff mistakes resulting in Barnicoat’s constitutional rights being violated. Shepherd also said staff has been reminded about dry cell procedures, and the facility is making changes to decrease errors.