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Family of courthouse shooter pursuing lawsuit

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Relatives of a man who became ill in jail and died after he was accused of shooting two people in a northern Minnesota courthouse say they are pursuing a lawsuit against St. Louis County, but the sheriff is standing by his jail staff.

Sheriff Ross Litman told the Duluth News Tribune ( that jail workers did everything they could for 42-year-old Daniel Schlienz. Litman said changes in jail procedures aren't necessary.

"Staff, in my opinion, did their jobs and did it very well," Litman said.

Schlienz was accused of shooting a prosecutor and another man in the Cook County Courthouse on Dec. 16, and he was being held at the St. Louis County jail. He soon became ill and was taken to a hospital, where he died Dec. 27. An autopsy showed he died from a bacterial infection.

A News Tribune review of written records and recordings of calls Schlienz made to friends and family show staff members checked on Schlienz at regular intervals before he died. The records note that Schlienz was sick but that there weren't clear indications he should've gone to the hospital sooner.

His family disagrees.

"We think St. Louis County screwed up. We do," said Schlienz's sister, Bev Wolke. "They did not take care of Dan the way he should have been treated. He is still a human being. He still has his constitutional rights, and if he needed medical attention, he should have gotten it and been brought to the hospital way sooner."

Wolke said Schlienz had a cough on and off for a couple years, and it returned after officers subdued him with a chemical spray following the shootings.

While the newspaper reports the cough was heard on phone calls Schlienz made to family and friends, he rarely mentioned it. Jail records give no indication that staff members were concerned.

A psychiatrist who saw Schlienz on Dec. 23 noted he was "alert and oriented."

Steven Oppel, a fellow inmate, told the newspaper Schlienz became seriously ill Dec. 24.

"He was violently ill," Oppel said. "He kept puking and throwing up, and he wasn't feeling well, and I asked Dan, 'Are you going to be OK?' And he said, 'I don't know, man.'"

Oppel said he asked jail staff on Dec. 25 to get medical attention for Schlienz but was denied.

Jail records, audio and video recordings don't support Oppel's claims. Records show Oppel and Schlienz played cards all afternoon and evening on Christmas Day.

A video of Schlienz on Dec. 25 shows he was able to walk normally, had normal skin color and talked with officers. Friends who visited that day said Schlienz told them his chest hurt and that he'd asked for cough medicine but he couldn't get it.

Jail records make no note of Schlienz complaining of illness on Dec. 25. Schlienz sought medical attention the next day, saying he was "sick flu like." He told an officer that he wasn't feeling good and "made his way to the toilet to vomit."

"He was just dry heaving at that point," the officer wrote.

When a nurse visited him that afternoon, he was noted to be "laying on his bunk moaning," complaining of body aches and hot and cold sweats.

He had a slightly above-normal blood pressure and pulse, and a fever and was diagnosed with the flu. He was told to drink fluids, take Tylenol and rest. The nurse recommended that Schlienz continue to be monitored every half hour.

Around 7:15 p.m., Schlienz asked an officer for a bottle of water. The officer came back 15 minutes later and noticed Schlienz's face was purple. Officers transported him to the hospital, where he later died, according to the records.


Information from: Duluth News Tribune,

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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