Activists, Families Hope BPD Jail Overdose Deaths Can Change Policy

One grieving mother and recovery specialists from around Charlestown and around Boston are hoping that shining a light on the overdose deaths of three young men while in custody at the South End D-4 Boston Police station will help to change policies around the city.

Within 90 days last summer, three young men died of drug overdoses while in the lock-up at the D-4 police station. At least one of the men, Shayne Stilphen, was seen on video struggling to stand up at booking, and then put in a jail cell. That video was first reported by Channel 5’s Kathy Curran. Later, on the video, he’s seen getting pills out of his pockets and taking them. That is followed by more than an hour of him not moving, while officers allegedly did not check on him while passing by 10 times. When they did go in, it was too late, and Stilphen, 28, had apparently already died of a drug overdose.

The other overdose death at the jail was Cristhian Geigel, and a third young man also died, but his family wished his name to be anonymous.

“The goal here isn’t to blame anyone or get anyone in trouble, but to bring attention that this happened and how devastating this is and that it is completely preventable,” said Recovery specialist Shannon Lundin, of MGH’s Charlestown Coalition. “The families just want people to know what happened and try to prevent any other families from going through it. There’s not blame here, but it could have been prevented, and it’s devastating to the families, and maybe this can spark some changes to policy citywide.”

Lundin had worked with Stilphen for several years as he tried to sober up in the Charlestown Drug Court program, and became friendly with his mother, Lynnel Cox, of East Bridgewater, while trying to help him. Together, they planned a vigil for the three men on Oct. 26 in front of the D-4 Station on Harrison Avenue.

Lundin, who spoke at the vigil and helped Cox coordinate the vigil, said about 50 people were there to memorialize the men and draw attention to potential policy change.

“I would think having a medical professional there so when someone is book and are clearly intoxicated, they can be evaluated to see if they need to be brought to the hospital,” she said. “He was clearly intoxicated when they brought him in and he couldn’t even stand up, which you can see on the video. My position isn’t to blame the police, particularly at D-4 which is in the middle of (the biggest problems). He obviously needed medical attention. If someone were there to evaluate him and determine he need medical help, I think that would have been the best outcome.”

Lundin said she had been very active in trying to help Stilphen when he was at Drug Court – a special court program in some district courts like Charlestown that streamlines individuals into treatment and recovery in return for not prosecuting their offense.

She said Stilphen, who grew up in Weymouth, was intent on sobering up, but couldn’t turn the corner.

“I advocated for him a lot and was on the phone with him all the time,” she said. “He struggled in and out in trying to get it together, but he had a desire to get sober. He was so caught up in that lifestyle that he couldn’t ever get out of it.”

Eventually, Stilphen dropped out of the program, and the next time Lundin heard about him was after he had died at the D-4 lockup.

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