An Alabama man died of hypothermia last month after receiving delayed medical treatment in jail, sparking a state investigation and a lawsuit from his family.
An Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigation is underway into the death of 33-year-old Anthony Mitchell. Mitchell was transported to a nearby hospital "for evaluation" and died on January 26, the agency said in a release.
An attorney for Mitchell's family filed a federal lawsuit on February 13, calling his death "an appalling case of jail abuse" and praised Karen Kelly, the Walker County corrections officer for collecting the security footage of the jail and Mitchell's treatment; Kelly was later terminated, and Goldfarb has filed a lawsuit on her behalf for retaliation.
Mitchell's family claims a doctor's diagnosis of hypothermia means he was "placed in a restraint chair in the jail kitchen's walk-in freezer or similar frigid environment and left there for hours," before his death, the lawsuit claims.
"The case provides contrasting examples of both the worst of humanity, and also its best. Without the malice, deliberate indifference, and failure to intervene of nearly a dozen correction officers at the jail, and the cooperation of these officers and their superiors in a scheme to deprive Tony of his civil rights and ultimately of his life, Tony could never have been killed," the suit said, adding "prompt emergency medical treatment" would have saved his life.
Police initially arrested Mitchell on January 12, according to a Walker County Sheriff's Office Facebook post.
Upon receiving a call from a concerned family member, the department reported Mitchell had made statements insinuating that he might harm himself or others.
"When Deputies arrived, they observed Mitchell in the front yard of the residence. Mitchell immediately brandished a handgun, and fired at least one shot at Deputies before retreating into a wooded area behind his home," the post said.
Mitchell was taken into custody after a SWAT team search in the woods, where he was booked into the Walker County jail on attempted murder charges.
According to the lawsuit, overnight shift officers violated Mitchell's constitutional rights by deliberately exposing him to freezing temperatures, with "deliberate indifference and malice."
Anthony Mitchell's death, and the retaliation against Karen Kelly for exposing his mistreatment by Walker County officers, are a result of the dangerous prioritization of violent and punitive responses by law enforcement towards people experiencing mental health crises.