Bi-State nurse allegedly refused to treat diabetic inmate before in-custody death

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A nurse working for the private company managing the Bi-State Justice Center jail allegedly refused to check the sugar level of a diabetic inmate housed in a cell 20 feet away from the medical station.

Brittany Johnson, 26, was recently charged with misdemeanor negligent homicide in the July 1 death of Morgan Angerbauer. The 20-year-old was arrested June 28 on a probation warrant issued by a Miller County judge.

Angerbauer’s sugar levels were repeatedly high when tested June 29 and during the day June 30, according to a probable cause affidavit. The nurse who had the day shift June 30 noted at approximately 4:30 p.m. that Angerbauer refused treatment at that time. However, the affidavit states that Johnson told investigators that inmates who do not report to “pill call” are documented as refusing treatment.

Johnson told Texarkana, Ark., detectives that when she walked past Angerbauer’s medical observation cell on her way to another area of the jail at 5 p.m., Angerbauer told her she was ready to be treated by medical staff.

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“Johnson also admitted that she was fully aware of the severity of Angerbauer’s medical diabetic situation, but rather than treat her, she told her that, ‘things don’t work that way. If you miss your medical call, you have to wait until it’s time for your next medical call.’ Johnson told investigators that if she allowed all offenders to do that, she’d never get anything done,” the affidavit alleges.

Johnson allegedly told detectives that Angerbauer was loud, yelling and screaming, until about 2 a.m. July 1. At that time, Angerbauer’s sugar level had not been checked since the early afternoon of June 29. Angerbauer’s blood sugar had tested at levels above 400 and 500 consistently until she was given insulin, according to a blood sugar log described in the affidavit.

Shortly after 4 a.m. July 1, Johnson reportedly entered Angerbauer’s cell with a blood sugar monitor and asked the inmate to roll over. Angerbauer did not respond.

“Johnson stated that Angerbauer was breathing, but was not responsive to any of her questions,” according to the affidavit. “She said that she advised Angerbauer to ‘stop playing’ because the night before she was very audible and dramatic and that she knew how she was acting.”

Johnson allegedly told detectives she had to help Angerbauer and support her in a sitting position to check her blood sugar. Johnson said she attempted to check Angerbauer’s sugar six or seven times but received “error” messages each time on the monitor.

Instead of calling for an ambulance, Johnson went to the nurse’s office and returned to Angerbauer’s cell with glucose, which is given to diabetics when their sugar level is too low. Johnson told detectives that when she placed glucose, which is sugar, into Angerbauer’s mouth, Angerbauer shut her mouth. Johnson said Angerbauer opened her mouth after Johnson told her to open it and that she put more glucose in her mouth.

According to the affidavit, about 40 minutes passed from the time Johnson entered Angerbauer’s cell to the time she called for paramedics. When emergency medical staff arrived, Johnson was already dead of ketoacidosis, a condition that occurs when blood sugar levels are sky high. According to the affidavit, Angerbauer’s sugar level was above 800 when measured during an autopsy. Blood sugar is considered in the normal range if it is between 70 and 110, according to the affidavit.

Johnson faces up to a year in the county jail if convicted of negligent homicide. She is scheduled to return to court next month for a pretrial hearing.

Johnson allegedly told detectives that she began working at the jail about six months prior to Angerbauer’s death and that she has been a licensed vocational nurse for two and a half years.

Angerbauer was serving a 5-year term of probation for possession of methamphetamine which began in April 2015, according to Miller County court records. A motion to revoke her probation alleges she failed to report to her probation officer, failed to participate in court-ordered programs and counseling, and that she failed to pay fees.

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