Alabama Man Died From Hypothermia, Cops ‘Likely’ Put Him in Jail Freezer, His Family Claims in Lawsuit
Inside Edition Digital has reached out to the Walker County Sheriff’s Department for comment on this story and lawsuit and has not heard back.
The family of an Alabama man died after being taken into police custody has filed a lawsuit against the Walker County Sheriff’s Department in which the man's kin alleges that he died from hypothermia after police “likely” placed him in a jail freezer.
The family of Anthony “Tony” Mitchell, 33, who died after being taken into police custody in January, filed a lawsuit this week against the Walker County Sheriff’s Department.
Police say they responded to Mitchell’s Carbon Hill residence on Jan. 12 after authorities responded to a call from the concerned family member.
The Walker County Sheriff's Office said in a statement on Facebook that the family member told them Mitchell had made statements to them that raised concern, insinuating that Mitchell may harm himself or others. "Deputies from our Patrol Division responded to the scene to perform a welfare check on the individual," the sheriff's office said.
Mitchell allegedly fired a gun during the wellness check, and police arrested him. He was charged with attempted murder, officials said. Deputies also said they recovered meth, heroin and a handgun from this residence.
On Jan. 13, Walker County Sheriff’s Department posted on Facebook about Mitchell’s arrest. The post, which was accompanied by a photo of Mitchell in handcuffs, was cropped to not show his face.
Fourteen days after being taken into police custody, Mitchell was transported while unconscious to the Walker Baptist Medical Center in the back seat of a police car on Jan. 26, according to the lawsuit filed by Mitchell's family, obtained by Inside Edition Digital. In the lawsuit, the family alleges that Mitchell’s body temperature was 72 degrees when he arrived at Walker Baptist Medical Center. An emergency room physician tried to resuscitate him for three hours and then pronounced him dead, the lawsuit says.
“I am not sure what circumstances the patient was held in incarceration but it is difficult to understand a rectal temperature of 72 degree Fahrenheit while someone is incarcerated in jail,” wrote the emergency room physician in his medical records, according to the lawsuit. “I do not know if he could have been exposed to a cold environment. I do believe that hypothermia was the ultimate cause of his death.”
The lawsuit alleges that Mitchell was “likely… placed in a restraint chair in the jail kitchen’s walk-in freezer or similar frigid environment and left there for hours.”
Video of some of Mitchell’s time in jail was obtained by CBS 42, and later civil rights attorney Ben Crump posted it on Twitter. Crump is not involved in the case.
The video, which was preserved by a corrections officer and lasts just over a minute, shows a man who Mitchell's family says appears to him, being carried into the loading area of the Walker County Jail. The man in the video is limp and his head and feet dangle as uniformed personnel with “Sheriff” on one of their vests lay his body just outside a marked police SUV.
According to Mitchell's family, the video contradicts the statement that the Walker County Sheriff’s Department gave CBS 42 on Jan. 30, in which they said Mitchell was “provided a routine medical check” on Jan. 27.
"On Thursday, January 27th, an inmate in the Walker County Jail was provided a routine medical check by jail medical staff. Medical staff determined the inmate needed to be transported to the hospital for further evaluation. The inmate was alert and conscious when he left the facility and arrived at the hospital. Shortly after arrival at the hospital, the inmate suffered a medical emergency and became unresponsive. Life saving efforts were performed by hospital staff and the inmate was ultimately revived. Unfortunately, a short time later, the inmate passed away," the Walker County Sherriff's office said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges that the statement is false. Mitchell was not “alert and conscious when he left the facility and arrived at the hospital," the lawsuit says, and claims Mitchell was declared dead on Thursday, Jan. 26 at 1:15 p.m. at Walker Baptist Medical Center.
The Walker County Sheriff’s Department, which also runs the jail, has not responded to Inside Edition Digital's request for comment.
In a statement to Inside Edition Digital, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the state agency that "represents the consolidation and realignment of 12 state law enforcement agencies/functions into one entity," says it launched an in-custody death investigation at the request of the Walker County Sherriff's Office.
"Anthony Don Mitchell, 33, of Carbon Hill, was arrested by the Walker County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday, Jan. 12, and was being held in the Walker County Jail. Mitchell was transported to Walker Baptist Hospital for evaluation on Thursday morning and became unresponsive at the hospital where he was pronounced deceased. An autopsy will be conducted by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences," the ALEA says. "Nothing further is available as the investigation remains ongoing. Once complete, the findings will be turned over to the Walker County District Attorney’s Office."
Jon Goldfarb, an attorney representing the Mitchell family, tells Inside Edition Digital in a statement that "this is the worst case of inmate abuse I have ever seen."
"There needs to be a federal statute requiring bystanders to report inmate abuse and providing statutory whistleblower protection to those who do," he says. "I sent a letter to the jail before we filed this case telling them to preserve all of their electronic recordings – if they have destroyed them then I can only imagine the horrors they have hidden.
"Mitchell was delusional and psychotic when they took him to jail, he needed to be in a hospital not naked in an isolation tank on the cold cement floor with no mattress, blanket or even a toilet," Goldfarb continues. "The video of them laughing as Mitchell lay naked and dying from their abuse on the cold and dirty cement floor will haunt me forever. People who have seen the videos cannot fathom that this is happening in America."
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