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Nurse attacked by inmate dies from injuries

October 28, 2010 5:44:07 PM PDT
A nurse who was attacked by an inmate at the Contra Costa County jail in Martinez on Monday died from her injuries at a local hospital on Thursday, according to the Contra Costa County coroner's office. Cynthia Palomata was taken off life support at John Muir Hospital.

Pat McCarty says the 55-year-old was kind to everyone and didn't deserve what happened to her at the Contra Costa County main jail on Monday afternoon. That's when sheriffs says inmate Aaron Nygaard faked a seizure and hit the nurse in the head with a table lamp.

"A beautiful, wonderful woman. She was kind, she loved her roses, she played with her orchards and everything. Did her job, did her job well," she said.

A resident of El Sobrante, Palomata leaves behind a husband and grown son and she worked for Contra Costa Health Services for more than 20 years.

At the time of the attack, the 34-year-old Nygaard was being processed into the main jail as a burglary suspect with no criminal history.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Warren Rupf told reporters that there were several sheriffs deputies within 10 feet of Palomata and Nygaard when the attack occurred in an intake area of the jail, but that the deputies were not paying particular attention to the nurse and the inmate.

Kay McVay is with the California Nurses' Association, and she says Palomata's death has re-energized her group's efforts to increase security for nurses in potentially dangerous environments.

At the Contra Costa jail, McVay believes Palomata should've had a deputy at her side when assessing the inmate.

"You don't just walk in and step up and talk with your buddies, and let somebody take care of something on the floor, without realizing the potential for something sad to happen," she said.

"I'm kind of mad that there was no one there to watch over her while she was working. That's kind of upsetting," McCarty said.

Nygaard was Tasered and subdued by a Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy employee, remains in a Contra Costa hospital. His arraignment on a murder charge will take place next Tuesday.


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