An Alabama man froze to death inside a county jail after he was placed inside a walk-in freezer or another cold area by guards, a recently filed lawsuit alleges.
The family of Anthony “Tony” Mitchell says that more than a dozen jail officials in Walker County abused him and then schemed to cover up the alleged mistreatment.
Mitchell dealt with “hellish” conditions inside the jail for roughly two weeks before his death following his arrest in mid-January, his grieving mother Margaret Mitchell argues in the suit.
“While Tony languished naked and dying of hyperthermia in the early morning hours of Jan. 26 and his chances for survival trickled away, numerous corrections officers and medical staff wandered over to his open cell door to spectate and be entertained by his condition,” the bombshell complaint claims.
A Walker County Sheriff’s official told a relative that Mitchell, 33, would receive help while inside the jail after his arrest, but instead he was tased by guards and housed in the jail naked, due to the facility’s suicide watch policy, the lawsuit speculates.
Mitchell suffered from drug addiction and faced both mental and physical health woes, according to his family.
The lawsuit states it appeared that Mitchell was strapped down to a restraint chair and placed in the “jail kitchen’s walk-in freezer or a similar frigid environment for an extended time” as some sort of twisted punishment.
Mitchell was arrested on Jan. 12 after authorities responded to a call from the concerned family member.
When deputies arrived, Mitchell allegedly fired a gun at them once before law enforcement retreated to the woods near his house, the sheriff’s office said in a press release the next day. After a mass of officials flooded the scene, including Sheriff Nick Smith, Mitchell was taken into custody.
Deputies recovered meth, heroin and a handgun from the location, authorities said.
When Mitchell was taken to a local hospital, his internal body temperature was only 72 degrees. While an autopsy has not been released, “it is clear that Tony’s death was wrongful, the result of horrific, malicious abuse and mountains of deliberate indifference,” the lawsuit states.
An emergency room doctor noted in Mitchell’s medical records that it was hard to understand why his body was so cold; he could have had a medical condition that led to hyperthermia, and isn’t sure if he was exposed to a cold environment, the doctor wrote.
When Mitchell was found inside the cold area, medical treatment was delayed for five hours before he finally received help. When he arrived at the hospital, he had no pulse and “only agonal respirations of 2-4 breaths per minute,” the lawsuit states.
The Mitchell family credits one corrections department official for preserving footage of Mitchell’s experience in the jail. Guard Karen Kelly has also sued the Walker County Sheriff’s Office over her termination after she shared videos with Mitchell’s relatives of him facing abuse in the jail, al.com reported.
The Mitchell’s family lawyer slammed the jail in a statement to The Post.
“This is the worst case of inmate abuse I have ever seen,” attorney Jon Goldfarb said.
“The evidence of abuse would have been buried with Tony Mitchell but for the bravery of a lone corrections officer who made videos of what really happened to Tony and shared one of them. And, they fired her for exposing the truth of this abuse.”
The sheriff’s department and county jail did not respond to a request for comment sought by the al.com Monday.
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