The family of a mentally ill man who died in police custody claims their loved one froze to death after being restrained and placed in a walk-in freezer for hours.
Anthony Mitchell’s family has filed a lawsuit in Walker County, Alabama after the man died on January 26 – two weeks after he was arrested for attempted murder after allegedly threatening to harm himself and others.
‘This is one of the most appalling cases of jail abuse the country has seen,’ the 37-page federal lawsuit filed by the family alleges.
Shocking video of Mitchell being carried out of the jail on January 26 shows the man being dragged and placed into a patrol vehicle before he was later declared dead.
The video allegedly contradicts the sheriff’s original statement that Mitchell was having a medical issue but had been ‘alert and responsive’ when he was taken to the hospital.
Anthony Mitchell, 33, who died in police custody in Walker County, Alabama on January 26. Mitchell’s family alleges the law enforcement agency restrained the man and left him in a freezer or ‘similar frigid environment,’ resulting in him freezing to death
The complaint filed by the family alleges hospital staff at Walker Baptist Medical Center spent three hours attempting to resuscitate him before he was declared dead.
According to the physician’s statements, the man’s cause of death is believed to have been hypothermia.
The doctor also notes the puzzling nature of the death.
‘I am not sure what circumstances the patient was held in incarceration but it is difficult to understand a rectal temperature of 72 degrees F, 22 degrees centigrade while someone is incarcerated in jail,’ the suit states.
‘The cause of his hypothermia is not clear. I do not know if he could have been exposed to a cold environment. I do believe hypothermia was the ultimate cause of death,’ it continues.
Lawyers for the family had similar questions to the doctor, asking how he would have frozen inside the jail.
‘How does a man literally freeze to death while incarcerated in a modern, climate-controlled jail, in the custody and care of corrections officers?’ the lawyers asked.
DailyMail.com reached out to the Walker County Coroner’s Office to confirm the man’s cause of death but did not receive a response.
Lawyers for Mitchell’s family say law enforcement originally said the man was alert and responsive when he was taken to the hospital. Video released seemingly contradicts that information
The video shows Mitchell being dragged and lifted into a patrol car before he was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead
The man’s body appeared limp in video released by one local media outlet
In their suit, Mitchell’s family claim he had been stripped naked and placed in a concrete isolation cell for the time he was there.
They also claim five hours went by between Mitchell being removed from the ‘frigid environment’ to him being taken to the hospital.
‘The cell lacked a bed or other furnishing,’ the suit states. ‘There was only a drain in the floor that could be used as a toilet. The cell was bare cement, the equivalent of a dog kennel. But unlike a dog, Tony was not even given a mat to sleep on.’
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is currently investigating the man’s death.
Mitchell was initially arrested on January 13 after his family members had called police, reporting his erratic behavior.
When deputies arrived, they found Mitchell in the front yard and said he immediately pulled out a handgun and fired at least one shot at them.
The man ran off into nearby woods and was hiding in a shed when they tracked him down.
‘This situation could have ended much differently if it weren’t for the constant training of our department, incredible work by our dispatchers, assistance from other agencies, and the quick help of District Attorney Bill Adair’s Office,’ law enforcement said in a post on Facebook.
‘Thankfully, the day ended with everyone safe,’ the post continued.
Mitchell was booked into the Walker County Jail on charges of attempted murder.
This is a grab from a video inside the Walker County Jail, showing a naked inmate, purportedly Mitchell
Mitchell’s family alleges he was kept naked and locked in a concrete cell while he was at the Walker County Jail for two weeks after his arrest
This is another photo from the day that Mitchell was arrested in Walker County, Alabama
On the day he was arrested, Mitchell was brought before a judge and was listed as ‘unable to sign’ paperwork, according to court records.
A family member said they had believed jail would be a safe place for the man.
‘We knew he was in jail, and we thought that was the safest place for him at the time,’ a family member said. ‘But it turned out to be the worst place for him.’
Officials with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office did not initially respond to questions about Mitchell’s death, but after WIAT reported on his death in police custody, the sheriff’s office released a statement about the situation. As in most Alabama counties, the local jail is operated by the sheriff’s office.
In a statement after his death, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office released a statement detailing the death of Mitchell in the law enforcement agency’s custody.
‘On Thursday, January 27th, an inmate in the Walker County Jail was provided a routine medical check by jail medical staff,’ the statement begins.
‘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 statement ends.
This is Anthony Mitchell in a photo from several years before his death
Photos and videos inside the lawsuit show a patient naked and surrounded by jail staff
This is the Walker County Jail where Mitchell ‘froze to death’
T.J. Armstrong, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, said last week that the department is not commenting on the situation at this time following the release of the video.
Officials with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency have not spoken out about the investigation at this time.
Karen Kelly, a correctional officer who had recorded some of the internal surveillance video showing Mitchell to be ‘unconscious and nearly dead’ subsequently had her job terminated by Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith.
She is now also suing the sheriff’s office, claiming she shared the video to ‘make sure that the truth of what happened to Mitchell would not go to his grave with him’ but the sheriff’s office ‘retaliated and fired her.’
In her 20-page lawsuit, Kelly alleges that officials called her in as part of an investigation into a leaked video.
She admitted she had shared video of Mitchell with two people – another employee at Walker County Sheriff’s Office and a second person who was ‘also in law enforcement.’
Asked why she leaked the video to someone outside of the agency, Kelly responded by saying she was compelled to ‘share the truth.’
Jon Goldfarb, a lawyer for Mitchell’s family, said he believes the local law enforcement agency should release all relevant photos and videos pertaining to the case to be truly transparent.
‘If the Sheriff does not have anything to hide, then all the videos of Mr. Anthony Mitchell should be preserved and released to the public,’ the lawyer said in part.
Correctional officer, Karen Kelly, who is suing the Walker County Sheriff’s Office after her job was terminated, claiming she was let go ‘in retaliation’ for sharing video of Anthony Mitchell