Jail Accused of Letting $5 Theft Suspect Die

     NORFOLK, Va. (CN) — The family of a man who died while jailed on charges of theft of $5 worth of snacks claims in court that correctional officers deprived him of food and medical care.
     Roxanne Adams, the aunt and executor of the estate of Jamycheal Mitchell, sued the Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority, correctional officers and jail medical staff for the death of her nephew, who she says was blatantly ignored and allowed to waste away to his death while under the supervision of the jail employees.
     In April 2015, 24-year-old Mitchell was arrested for allegedly stealing about $5 in snacks from a 7-Eleven. Bail for his petty larceny and trespassing charges was originally set at $3,000, but soon thereafter his status was changed to detained without bail.
     In a mental health screening ordered by Portsmouth General District Court in 2015, it was noted that, “Mr. Mitchell’s thought processes were so confused that only snippets of his sentences could be understood, the rest were mumbled statements that made no rational sense.”
     The mental health expert urged the court to transfer Mitchell to Eastern State Hospital, a state mental hospital, to “restore his competency,” according to court records.
     But the restoration order was allegedly not forwarded to the hospital for more than two months, and then a hospital employee never entered Mitchell’s name into a log for managing incoming patients.
     In fact, an investigation by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Development Services found the worker’s drawer contained a “significant number of (competency restoration orders) that had not been entered,” Adams’ May 10 lawsuit states.
     While housed in Hampton Roads Regional Jail (HRRJ), Mitchell was repeatedly mistreated and purposefully ignored by jail personnel, Adams claims.
     During the last months of his confinement, Mitchell was confined in a two-inmate cell that he occupied by himself. The cell had a Plexiglas window and a “chuck hole” on the cell door, which Adams says was often completely sealed except for small gaps in between the cell door and the door jam.
     Mitchell’s only contact with other humans was regularly speaking with other inmates through the small gaps, and he was regularly denied food and water, Adams claims.
     He allegedly suffered dramatic and significant weight loss that was never fully addressed by jail officers and medical staff. During his time at HHRJ, Mitchell lost 40 to 50 pound and his weight fell to 144 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame, according to Adams’ lawsuit.
     Adams claims she called HHRJ over 40 times during the span of his incarceration in an attempt to get assistance for Mitchell.
     Officers also allegedly turned off the water in Mitchell’s cell. As a consequence of no toilet water and a sealed door, he was trapped in a cell that reeked from the stench of unflushed urine and feces, the complaint states.
     
     “Mitchell lost his clothing and bedding because correctional officer defendants took it away after he was observed trying to flush them in his toilet,” the 112-page lawsuit states.
     He was prescribed psychotropic medication to maintain his mental capacity, but received virtually no psychotropic medication at the jail, and his medication was discontinued altogether about a month before his death, according to the complaint.
     According to court records, a fellow inmate said Mitchell “was never allowed to take a shower and that he personally saw jail personnel squirt a water bottle in Mitchell’s face and kick him.”
     At times during his incarceration, Mitchell was allegedly forced to the ground, dragged, sprayed with mace, stood upon, punched and kicked by officers.
     Inmates reportedly said that officers would regularly mock and laugh at Mitchell, and treated him “like a circus animal.”
     In the later part of Mitchell’s detention, he was finally sent to Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center for treatment of his swollen feet and legs, according to Adams.
     During his brief stay in the emergency department, Mitchell’s condition was assessed, lab tests were performed, and he was reportedly diagnosed as suffering from lower extremity swelling, abnormally low protein and low enzyme levels.
     However, he was not provided care during the remaining 19 days of confinement leading up to Mitchell’s death as his condition worsened, the complaint states. For as many as four days before his death, Mitchell uncharacteristically laid slumped on the rack in his cell, according to inmates cited in Adams’ lawsuit.
     On Aug. 19, 2015, fellow inmates discovered Mitchell unresponsive in his cell. EMS was called to the scene and pronounced Mitchell dead.
     Investigators from the chief medical examiner’s office described Mitchell’s cell as having the stench of a “foul odor,” according to Adams. The toilet in the cell was allegedly full of urine and feces and investigators found puddles of urine on the floor.
     An autopsy listed Mitchell’s cause of death as “probable cardiac arrhythmia accompanying wasting syndrome of unknown etiology,” the lawsuit states.
     An assistant medical examiner reportedly described Mitchell as “nearly cachectic,” meaning a “loss of body mass that cannot be reversed nutritionally,” according to Adams’ complaint.
     Adams seeks $50 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. A secretary for Mark Krudys, attorney for Adams and the Mitchell Estate, said he was not currently making statements to the press.
     Jeff Rosen, attorney for the defendants, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

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