A mentally ill man has frozen to death in an Alabama prison. This emerges from a lawsuit filed by the mother of the 33-year-old. In it, she alleges that her son was held naked in a concrete cell and he was also placed in a walk-in freezer or other cold environment.
The young man lived with his father in the small community of Carbon Hill, Alabama, until the end of 2022. When his father died, he lived alone in the house. The mother paid for electricity and water and provided her son with food. But he slipped deeper and deeper into drug addiction and suffered increasingly from delusions. Finally, on January 12, 2023, he was arrested after a cousin asked authorities to check on the man's well-being. He had previously spoken of portals to heaven and hell and seemed to suffer a nervous breakdown.
When he was arrested, he reportedly shot one of the officers at least once before fleeing into a nearby wooded area. During a search of the home, officers found methamphetamine, heroin and a handgun. Officers eventually arrested him and took him to the Walker County Detention Center.
Prison videos showed the man lying naked on the bare concrete floor in an isolation cell. The cell had neither a mattress nor any other furniture. The only toilet used was a drainpipe in the floor. Actually, these cells are not intended for the accommodation of inmates, but only for the temporary accommodation of prisoners.
The prosecution suspects that he was held for hours - restrained in a chair - either in a cold room, the prison kitchen or a similarly cold environment. Finally, on January 26, he was rushed to a hospital emergency room with a body temperature of 22 degrees, where he was pronounced dead hours later.
The mother files charges against the sheriff and thirteen other employees of the Walker County Sheriff's Department for assault and failure to provide assistance. Apparently, the officials had initially tried to cover up the process. According to the lawsuit, police released a statement on the incident, saying the inmate was "awake and conscious" when he left the facility and arrived at the hospital. But surveillance footage shows several officers carried the man's limp body, who was apparently unconscious at the time, from the detention center to a police car. There they laid him down briefly before heaving him onto the back seat. Why they didn't call an ambulance for transport remains unclear.
One of the officers later told the cousin who called 911 that the man had refused to eat while in custody and agreed to a psychiatric evaluation. He also threw feces at the prison staff. On the way to the hospital, he is said to have suffered a heart attack. However, the doctor who later examined the inmate at the hospital said cardiac arrest did not occur. "The cause of his hypothermia is unclear. It is possible that he had an underlying medical condition that led to hypothermia. I don't know if he could have been exposed to a cold environment," the doctor is quoted as saying in the indictment. "However, I believe hypothermia was the ultimate cause of his death."
The case is making waves among the public. Concerned citizens of Walker County have started an online petition demanding the immediate resignation of the sheriff and everyone involved in the man's death. "A welfare check should not be a death sentence and citizens should not live in fear of their elected officials," it says, among other things.
Sources: Prosecutors' indictment, ABC News, online petition