Attacked California jail nurse dies

After faking a seizure, an inmate had struck the nurse with a lamp

By Henry K. Lee
The San Francisco Chronicle

CONTRA COSTA, Calif. — A nurse who was hit in the head with a lamp by a Contra Costa County Jail inmate died Thursday, and the suspect now faces a murder charge, authorities said.

Cynthia Palomata, 55, of El Sobrante, a longtime employee with Contra Costa Health Services, died at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek as a result of the attack by burglary suspect Aaron Nygaard, 34, of El Cerrito, sheriff's officials said.

The attack at the Martinez jail happened about 4:10 p.m. Monday after Nygaard faked a seizure, said Jimmy Lee, a sheriff's department spokesman.

When Palomata rushed to his aid, Nygaard told her that "he did not want to be in a particular waiting room" in the jail's intake area, Lee said.

Then Nygaard picked up a lamp and hit Palomata in the head, knocking her unconscious, authorities said. When deputies tried to subdue him, Nygaard swung the lamp at them, Lee said.

Deputies used a Taser shock weapon, but Nygaard "violently resisted," Lee said. He was ultimately restrained and sedated.

El Cerrito police had booked Nygaard at the jail Monday morning after he allegedly broke into a home on the 500 block of Kearney Street.

He had no criminal history, said Sheriff Warren Rupf, who called the suspect a "knucklehead" for attacking a "good person who was trying to help."

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