The inmate, Felix Manus, is on life support after suffering an asthma attack while in the county’s work-release program, the lawyer says.

A man serving in Erie County’s work-release program is on life support after a corrections officer failed to promptly call an ambulance to treat the man’s asthma attack, an Erie lawyer is claiming.

The lawyer, John Mizner, submitted a letter to the Erie County Executive’s Office Monday requesting an independent investigation into the treatment of the man, 48-year-old Felix L. Manus.

The letter charges that Manus experienced a loss of brain activity because of a lack of oxygen. The asthma attack struck while Manus was working outdoors near Edinboro on May 30, according to the letter.

“Mr. Manus’ treating physicians have advised his family that they do not expect him to survive,” Mizner wrote in the letter, which was provided to the Erie Times-News. Manus is being treated at UPMC Hamot, Mizner said Monday.

Erie County Director of Administration Gary Lee said the County Executive’s Office received the letter on Monday.

“The administration is reviewing the occurrence,” Lee said. “As part of that review, we will be looking at whether personnel policies and procedures were properly adhered to.”

Mizner wrote in the letter that Manus suffered the asthma attack after performing tasks such as mowing grass and painting outdoors for the county’s work-release program.

Court records show that Manus was ordered on May 4 to spend three months in the work-release program for failing to pay $750 in child support.

The letter claims that Manus started struggling to breathe during his shift and told another inmate in the work-release program that his prescribed inhaler was empty.

Mizner claims that a corrections officer refused to call an ambulance when Manus stated he was having an asthma attack. Manus was instead ordered to sit in the back of a transport van with four other inmates in the program, the letter claims.

When Manus’ condition worsened during the drive back to the work-release center in Erie, the officer stopped the van and called his supervisor, who advised Manus should be returned to the work-release center, according to the letter.

The officer told Manus it would be faster to meet an ambulance at the center, Mizner wrote in the letter. When they arrived at the work-release center, which was about 30 minutes away, it took another 10 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, he wrote.

Manus, who was struggling to breathe and to stand for much of the interaction, is on life support at Hamot, the letter states.

“It’s hard to comprehend how a corrections officer who knows and sees that someone cannot breathe fails to call 911,” Mizner said.

Court records show that Erie County Judge John J. Mead ordered Manus released from custody “based on the medical condition of the defendant” on May 31. The order also states Manus is required to report to the Erie County Domestic Relations Office upon his “release from a medical facility.”

Mizner said he does not know the identity of the corrections officer referenced in the letter.

In the letter, Mizner asked Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper to commence an investigation that would not be conducted by employees of the Erie County Prison or the work-release center.

He also asked that the officers or staff involved in the incident be suspended while the investigation is ongoing and the county to ensure the work-release inmates who witnessed the event “are not intimidated, questioned by County agents or retaliated against in any way.”

Mizner also asked the county to preserve any evidence or documents related to the case.

Original Article by Madeleine O’Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at