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Federal wrongful death lawsuit filed against Aurora ICE detention center, doctor

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AURORA, Colo. -- The children of a man who died in a privately run ICE detention facility have filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the company that runs it and the doctor who was in charge of their father’s care.

“A man died in their care. That isn’t just something that can be swept under the rug,” said Neda Samimi-Gomez, whose father, Kamyar Samimi, died in 2017 at the Aurora center.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday against The Geo Group Inc. and Dr. Jeffrey Elam Peterson, alleges Samimi’s death was the result of “GEO medical staff’s extreme mistreatment.”

It blames GEO staff for failing to properly treat Samimi’s opioid use disorder by cutting him off from his decades-long, daily methadone treatment when they detained him.

“He should have been in a hospital, but he wasn’t in a hospital,” said Mark Silverstein, the Colorado ACLU legal director who is helping represent the Samimi family.

“And the records we got through the Freedom of Information Act show time after time after time how the medical staff was just incapable and incompetent and did not know how to handle the withdrawal symptoms.”

The lawsuit describes Samimi’s final days in which he was continuously screaming, refusing food, speaking with slurred words and having difficulty walking and standing.

“Dr. Peterson ignored clear indications of Mr. Samimi’s severe withdrawal symptoms, and did nothing in response,” the lawsuit alleges.

“GEO strongly rejects these allegations,” said Pablo Paez, the executive vice president of corporate relations for The Geo Group.

“The processing centers we manage on behalf of ICE are top-rated by independent accreditation entities, including the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, and provide high-quality residential care.

"We are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for everyone in our care."

Peterson could not be reached for comment.

Samimi, who, according to the ACLU, was born in Iran and became a legal permanent U.S. resident in 1979, had been taken into custody in 2017 because of a drug 2005 drug conviction that “rendered him removable from the country.”

“People continue to be picked up for whatever reason. That does not matter," Samimi-Gomez said. "They’re being put in these facilities and everyone has different needs.

"They’re not just a name and a number. They are a person. A human. Everyone needs something different.

“He would want everyone to know that they’re not properly taking care of people and that a lot of people, including my father, have suffered.  And he suffered the ultimate."

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