The FBI is looking at whether Fauquier County violated the civil rights of an inmate who died of pneumonia last month after a two-week stay at the county jail, officials said yesterday.

Relatives of Herman N. Jenkins, 43, a Warrenton area bricklayer, have alleged that jail personnel neglected and ignored Jenkins, who was jailed Oct. 29 on a parole violation, as he grew increasingly ill. Jenkins was suffering from heroin withdrawal and was denied proper medical attention at the jail, the family contends. He died of pneumonia Nov. 16, four days after sheriff's deputies took him to Fauquier Hospital.

The FBI began its probe after family members complained to federal authorities.

Fauquier Sheriff Joseph Higgs Jr. (R) said at a news conference yesterday that the Washington field office of the FBI had notified him by phone last week that the investigation was underway.

In interviews, Jenkins's relatives said that while he was in jail, Jenkins lost 21 pounds, was not treated for heroin withdrawal and was allowed to lie for days in his excrement before deputies took him in handcuffs to the hospital.

Two inmates interviewed a few days after Jenkins's death said that Jenkins could not stand on his own the day before he was taken to the hospital. A co-worker of Jenkins, who asked that his name not be used, said Jenkins was laying bricks until his arrest.

"What happened in that jail, it was neglect, pure and simple," Jenkins's brother, Ervin "Gene" Jenkins, 42, said yesterday.

Higgs said Jenkins received proper medical attention throughout his stay at the jail. He said aid he was confident his office would be exonerated.

Ervin Jenkins said he contacted the FBI and gave FBI agents a letter detailing the alleged neglect of Jenkins written by another inmate.

Susan Lloyd, a spokeswoman for the FBI field office, said she could not confirm the investigation. She said that in civil rights cases, a preliminary inquiry is the first step. Based on the findings, the local U.S. attorney may decide to order a further investigation.

"Obviously, the threshold to pursue a preliminary inquiry is much less than the threshold to begin a full field investigation," Lloyd said. "If there is a request by a third party or by a family, then a preliminary inquiry is generally opened."