WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — His family thought jail may be the safest place for him. But two weeks after his family called police for a welfare check and their loved one was subsequently arrested, Anthony “Tony” Mitchell was dead.
Mitchell died after two weeks in police custody, according to his family. A family member said Monday that police told his loved ones last week that “his organs are shutting down, and we’re taking him to the hospital.”
Before long, their loved one was dead, a family member said.
In a statement issued to CBS 42 on Monday, a representative of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office said Mitchell was “provided a routine medical check” on Jan. 27.
“Medical staff determined the inmate needed to be transported to the hospital for further evaluation,” the statement said in part. Mitchell was “alert and conscious” when he left the Walker County Jail, the representative said, but suffered a “medical emergency and became unresponsive” after arriving at the hospital.
In a phone conversation, the representative of the sheriff’s office emphasized that the death did not occur in the Walker County Jail.
‘The day ended with everyone safe’
Tony Mitchell’s recent interactions with Walker County law enforcement began on Jan. 13, according to a statement posted to the sheriff’s office’s social media account.
“Thursday, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a concerned member of a Carbon Hill man,” the post said.
Law enforcement claimed that when they arrived on scene, Mitchell “immediately brandished a handgun, and fire at least one shot at Deputies (sic) before retreating into a wooded area behind his home.”
After a search for Mitchell that included both air and K9 units, Mitchell was arrested and charged with attempted murder, according to police and court records.
“Thankfully,” the sheriff’s office post said, “the day ended with everyone safe.”
The first and the last
In addition to the written statement, the Jan. 13 post by the Walker County Sheriff’s Office initially included an unedited, full-body photo of Mitchell, whose face appeared to be spray-painted black.
One of Mitchell’s family members said that the photo shocked her.
“I hadn’t seen him in two years, and that was the first time I’d seen him — and the last,” she said.
The photo, which was shared hundreds of times across social media and in multiple news outlets, garnered significant public pushback from those criticizing the “sensationalism” of the post.
According to Facebook records, the sheriff’s office edited the post later that day, cropping the photo to exclude Mitchell’s face.
‘We thought that was the safest place’
Court records show that Mitchell was brought before a judge on the day of his arrest but was listed as being “unable to sign” paperwork by court officials.
“We knew he was in jail, and we thought that was the safest place for him at the time,” his family member said. “But it turned out to be the worst place for him.”
Officials with the Walker County Coroner’s Office did not respond to requests for comment as of publication time, but the sheriff’s office confirmed Mitchell’s death in a statement sent Monday afternoon.
As in most Alabama counties, the local jail is operated by the sheriff’s office.
“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 statement said. “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 went on to say that because Mitchell’s death occurred in police custody, the situation is being investigated by state police.
“It is unknown at this time what contributed to his death,” the statement concluded. “Even though the inmate’s death did not occur in the jail, he was still in police custody, so standard protocol was followed and ALEA was contacted. SBI agents began an immediate investigation into the incident.”
In a statement sent after this article’s initial publication, officials with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said they are conducting an “in-custody death investigation” in Walker County. Once the investigation is completed, its findings will be handed over to the Walker County District Attorney’s Office, the statement from state law enforcement said.