WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — In a new court filing, lawyers for the family of Anthony “Tony” Mitchell claim he was denied water for over 70 hours in the lead up to his death in police custody in Walker County.
The amended complaint, filed Monday, further details allegations initially made against several Walker County Jail officials back on Feb. 13.
“For the duration of his stay at the jail, Tony was kept in cell BK5, the ‘drunk tank’ in the booking area,” the lawsuit states.
The cell allegedly lacks a bunk, a sink or any source of water, and has a small hole in the floor covered with grating that can be used as a toilet. According to the lawsuit, the only way for inmates in BK5 to retrieve water is if a CO brings them water in a cup or the inmate is allowed out of their cell.
Prior to his death on Jan. 26, the lawsuit stated Mitchell last had a cup of water around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 23. Meals provided to him over the following days allegedly did not contain a drink and Mitchell was not taken out of his cell from Jan. 23 until he was carried out on Jan. 26.
“Officers were aware that Tony was being deprived of water, and they acted with deliberate indifference to Tony’s serious medical needs for hydration and for medical treatment for dehydration,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit also claimed Mitchell was brought to use the shower or bathroom a total of six times during the nearly 14 days he was held in BK5. His cell was cleaned a total of four times prior to the morning of Jan. 26, the same day he died. The lawsuit goes on to state the cell “was contaminated with feces for much of Tony’s confinement in the cell.”
Initially, Mitchell had a mat, a blanket, and later had a suicide watch garment, but those were all taken from him early in his stay at the jail, the lawsuit alleged. As a result, lawyers for the family said “Tony spent most of his incarceration either mostly or completely naked on BK5’s bare concrete floor.”
The lawsuit stated jail staff can subject inmates in BK5 to frigid temperatures as a result of climate controls in the booking area.
“For this reason, BK5 is referred to by some longtime corrections staff and inmates as ‘the freezer,'” the lawsuit states.
Through using the prison’s climate control system, corrections officers intentionally exposed Mitchell to a frigid environment by extremely cold air to blow into his cell the night of Jan. 25 into Jan. 26, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the frigid air blowing into Mitchell’s cell caused “Mitchell, already stressed by dehydration from receiving no water for over two days, to become severely hypothermic overnight and in the morning hours.”
The lawsuit stated that around 3:30 a.m. Jan. 26, a corrections officer brought a cup of water to Mitchell’s cell, the first water offered to Mitchell in over 70 hours. However, the lawsuit claims Mitchell was too weak from dehydration and hypothermia to sit up and drink the water.
Around 4:17 a.m., medical staff allegedly advised Mitchell would need to be taken to the hospital when the next shift arrived. The next shift would not begin until 6 a.m., according to the lawsuit.
Notes allegedly from the jail nurse practitioner state that Mitchell was “cool to the touch, difficult to arouse but eyes open to commands, no verbal communication, moans and mumbles.”
Mitchell was not taken to a hospital until 8:54 a.m., when he was carried by uniformed personnel out of the jail and placed into the backseat of a patrol vehicle.
Video of Mitchell being carried out of the jail was obtained by CBS 42. The video contradicts an earlier statement from the Walker County Sheriff’s Office claiming Mitchell was “alert and conscious” when he left the jail for transport to a local hospital.
Mitchell was pronounced dead at 1:15 p.m. at the Walker Baptist Hospital, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also includes quotes from notes included in Mitchell’s medical records written by an emergency room doctor after the Walker County man was transported to a local hospital the day he died.
“I am not sure what circumstances the patient was held in incarceration, but it is difficult to understand a rectal temperature of 72° F 22° centigrade while someone is incarcerated in jail,” the doctor’s notes said, according to the federal lawsuit. “The cause of his hypothermia is not clear. It is possible he had an underlying medical condition resulting in hypothermia. 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.”
Lawyers for the sheriff’s office have yet to respond to the amended complaint.
Included in the lawsuit are also claims Mitchell was allegedly denied access to medical and mental health treatment, hit with a stun gun and repeatedly dragged by corrections officers when he could not walk. The allegations are detailed in the full amended complaint below: