LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW) — The family of Blake Northern is speaking out after almost two years since he died. He had not received insulin while being held in the Seward County Jail.
“He was described at his funeral as a tumbleweed. Cause he never felt like he fit in,” said Taryn Porter-Sepeda, Blake Northern’s mom.
Blake’s family said he had a big heart and wanted to be loved.
“He had his struggles being diabetic since you were six,” said William Northern, Blake’s dad.
Blake also had Klinefelters Syndrome, which caused delays in his development and maturity level.
In 2020, Blake was living in Liberal. His family said he had some run-ins with the law causing him to serve more than 40 days in the Seward County Jail.
“He got out, and he was taken care of for those 40 or 41 days, whatever it was,” said Michael Porter, Blake’s grandfather.
His family said he was working to move closer to Wichita, but on Dec. 8, 2020, things changed.
“He got pulled over for a no seat belt,” said Porter-Sepeda.
Court filings in the case show the Liberal Police Department found Blake had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear for a previous court day.
He was booked into the Seward County Jail again, and his family said when he filled out his paperwork, he put down that he was Type 1 Diabetic.
“They knew he was diabetic. They had all of his logs from the previous time that he was in there,” said Tonia Fulton, Blake’s stepmom.
His family claims he had not been given his insulin in jail.
Blake’s dad said he got a call from Blake’s roommate on Dec. 11, 2020, telling him Blake was in the hospital and not doing well.
“That was the first I ever knew he was even in jail,” said William.
Blake’s mom called the hospital and was transferred to the ICU.
“And I hear bells and whistles, and she’s letting us know that he had been brought in the day before that he was coding for the third time, and they were doing everything they could, so we dropped everything,” said Porter-Sepeda.
Blake’s family began driving to Liberal from Wichita but barely made it out of town until they got the call that Blake had died from diabetic ketoacidoses.
The family made it to the hospital to ID him.
“We had to lift the sheet up and check his tattoos because he was so full of fluids that we didn’t recognize him,” said Porter-Sepeda.
Blake’s family said his weight doubled from all the fluid that he received.
They went to gather his things from the jail and said that’s when they learned he didn’t have his insulin.
“‘You mean to tell me my son has been in here for 48 hours, and you didn’t give him any insulin?’ And it was a big deer in the headlights look. They wouldn’t respond,” said Porter-Sepeda.
The family sought legal action.
Their attorney said after mediation with Seward County, they agreed to an undisclosed settlement outside of court.
The County does not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the filing and declined to speak with KSN.
“We have no way to know whether anybody lost their job or whether there were policy changes,” said Porter-Sepeda.
Now, the family is working to get the state legislature to make a change, requiring additional training for corrections officers surrounding medical conditions, education, and awareness.
“We want this stopped. We want to where no other family has to live with what we are living with,” said Porter-Sepeda.
The Seward County Sheriff and the County’s attorney declined to give a statement on the case.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) said the autopsy report regarding Blake’s death showed he died of diabetic ketoacidoses with contributing factors of COVID-19 and asthma.
The KBI also added nothing was found to file criminal charges in his death.
The family asks that others educate themselves about the signs of Diabetic Ketoacidoses, such as increased thirst, being very tired, and vomiting.