WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A teen who died in juvenile detention has prompted others to come forward with allegations of negligence and unfair treatment while under the supervision of guards at the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
One teenager stepping forward says he went to school with Eric Perez and also spent time in the same detention center where Perez was found dead in a medical confinement room.
He says he is sad one of his friends is no longer living, but is not surprised at the neglect he suffered at those responsible for his care.
Perez's death at the detention center has prompted a state investigation.
"The tent is real crooked," says the teen who also spent time at the detention center. He does not want his identity revealed.
The tent, he says, is a nickname for the center. He says he suffers from chronic asthma and recalls needing help when he was inside.
"When I've had headaches when I felt sick, I've been told to just sleep it off," he says.
The teenager says he knew Perez as a kid who did what he had to do in order to survive.
"I saw Eric struggle many times so he could eat. He fought for a reason and it was to survive," he says.
Alleged wrongdoing ultimately landed Perez in the detention center, where he would die. He was overcome by a sudden illness and allegedly left without medical care for hours.
"We don't got nobody protecting us," says the teen. "I got my whole eye split open and a guard was looking through the window talking about "f" him up."
The problems were supposed to be fixed years ago.
In 2003, 17-year-old Omar Paisley died from a ruptured appendix at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center after being denied medical attention.
A grand jury investigation of that Miami-Dade center found incompetence, ambivalence and negligence.
The Perez family attorney, Richard Schuler, says Paisley's death led to changes in how staff were trained and required to respond to sick juveniles. Schuler argues training was forgotten when Perez became severely ill--vomiting and suffering from a severe headache.
"There were rules and regulations put in place at that time and are in effect today and they were ignored," says Schuler.
And the teen who does not want to be identified fears what may happen if he winds up in the detention center again.
"So what, I'm going to die next because they don't want to take care of me?" he says.
A statement from the Department of Juvenile Justice says, "D.J.J. does not tolerate staff compromising the health and safety of youth in our care."
They also say, "the center is to provide youth immediate and unrestricted access to the statewide child abuse hot-line."
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