OCDA issues Custodial Death Report for Ngoc Dang Nguyen

Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Todd Spitzer released the investigation findings and legal conclusions of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department custodial death of Ngoc Dang Nguyen.

The full letter, “OCDA Report Custodial Death – Ngoc Dang Nguyen” is available at www.orangecountyda.org by selecting Officer-Involved Shootings and Custodial Death Letters under the Reports pull-down menu. The relevant video/audio evidence is available on the OCDA webpage.

This article was released by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Below are selected excerpts from the Custodial Death Report.

On November 18, 2017, Nguyen broke her neighbor’s large window using a hammer, climbed into the residence, and attacked her neighbor with the hammer. Her neighbor, who was 82 years old, wrestled the hammer away from Nguyen. Nguyen fled to her home where she was contacted by police. The neighbor told police that she and Nguyen had been neighbors for ten years, that she believed Nguyen may have a mental illness, and that the day before the assault, Nguyen had stood outside her neighbor’s window yelling, “You are fake, your religion is fake, your God is fake!”
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In the early hours of November 19, 2017, Nguyen was booked into the Orange County Women’s Jail. During the intake process, OC HCA conducted a medical screening of Nguyen. She denied having any chronic medical conditions, including cancer. She said she had been previously treated for a mental illness but was not taking any medication. When she was offered medication by the jail medical staff, she spit out the water and the medication. Due to Nguyen being uncooperative, aggressive, and a danger to herself and others, she was placed under psychiatric evaluation. Two days later, Nguyen met with a psychiatrist and agreed to try psychiatric medication. In the ensuing days, as she continued to take the psychiatric medication, Nguyen became calm and cooperative.
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Between December 20, 2018, and January 4, 2019, Nguyen’s weight steadily decreased from 136 pounds to 130 pounds, she remained weak from the anemia, and she struggled with her appetite. In late December, in an effort to address her anemia and elevated heart rate, the medical staff discontinued Nguyen’s psychiatric medication and prescribed her heart medication.
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A bone marrow biopsy was performed on January 16, 2019. The results were reviewed on January 18, 2019, and were found to be inconclusive but suggested that Nguyen may have lymphoma. A second bone marrow biopsy was scheduled. […] On February 18, 2019, doctors requested that Nguyen be transferred to UCIMC for chemotherapy services. From her biopsy until her eventual transfer to UCIMC, Nguyen received continuous medical care, including several blood transfusions.
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During the night of March 5, 2019, Nguyen developed respiratory failure. She was taken to the ICU and intubated. On March 6, 2019, the medical staff informed Nguyen’s son that his mother had an aggressive disease that would require aggressive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. They also explained the challenges of administering chemotherapy to a patient with stage IV cancer who was on a respirator. Nguyen’s son agreed to a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.

On March 8, 2019, Nguyen’s son advised UCIMC’s staff that he wanted to transition his mother to comfort care measures and then remove her from life support. On March 11, 2019, at 11 a.m., after religious prayers were performed, Nguyen’s son informed the medical staff he was ready for life support to be withdrawn. After Nguyen was sedated and provided pain medication, the breathing tube was removed. Later that evening, the nursing staff contacted the doctor and requested he confirm that Nguyen had died. After observing no visible signs of breathing, no pulse, no audible sounds from the heart, and no response to light, the doctor pronounced Nguyen dead at 8:10 pm.
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As Nguyen’s medical challenges unfolded, OCSD fulfilled their legal duty of care to Nguyen. She was continually provided appropriate medical care at each stage based on the information that OCSD and the medical providers had at that stage. For those reasons, there is no evidence to support a finding that any OCSD personnel or any individual under OCSD’s supervision failed to perform a legal duty that resulted in Nguyen’s death.