A new federal lawsuit says that an Alabama inmate who died in jail because of the cold was probably put in a freezer as punishment.
The complaint says that Walker County Jail staff put Anthony “Tony” Mitchell, 33, “in a restraint chair in the jail kitchen’s walk-in freezer or a similar cold place” and left him there for hours, possibly as punishment for deputies who had “had a time with Tony.”
He died on Jan. 26. The complaint states –
“While Tony languished naked and dying of hypothermia in the early morning hours of January 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.”
There are pictures of officers holding Mitchell, who looks limp, in different parts of the jail that are part of the complaint.
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According to the lawsuit, Mitchell’s body temperature was 72 degrees when jail staff put him in a sheriff’s car on the morning of January 26 and drove him to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance.
The physician who examined Mitchell wrote the following –
“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 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.”
The Walker County Medical Examiner hasn’t released Mitchell’s autopsy report yet, but the lawsuit says –
“It is clear that Tony’s death was wrong, the result of horrible, malicious abuse and mountains of deliberate indifference.”
Margaret Mitchell, Mitchell’s mother, sued Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith, 10 corrections officers, 2 nurses, and 1 investigator.
The complaint also talks about a corrections officer who did something “brave” when she “dared to save security camera footage on her phone and get the recordings to the [Mitchell] Estate.”
The Walker County Sheriff’s Office first arrested Mitchell on January 12 after getting a call from a “worried” family member who said Mitchell had said things that made it sound like he could “harm himself or others,” the office said in a Facebook post on January 13.
The sheriff’s office said at the time –
“Mitchell immediately brandished a handgun, and fired at least one shot at Deputies before retreating into a wooded area behind his home.”
A SWAT team that was in the middle of training went to the 33-year-house old’s and found Mitchell in a metal building in the woods behind his house. He was then arrested.
The lawsuit said that Mitchell had “a history of drug use.” After his father died in 2022, he lived alone, and his mother would pay his bills and bring him food. The man’s cousin, who was the last person to talk to him before he was arrested, said he was crazy and had lost about 90 pounds.
The lawsuit says that Walker County officials violated Mitchell’s civil rights and caused him to die by “improperly training, retraining, instructing, supervising, and disciplining” jail officers.