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Did nurses in Walker County Jail delay treatment of Tony Mitchell? New court docs offer competing answers
Nurses claim medical staff ordered Mitchell transported to the ER. Jail officials wrote they were told the transfer could wait.
For Tony Mitchell, every moment mattered.
When the Alabama man finally arrived at a local hospital earlier this year, transported from a county jail not in an ambulance, but a sheriff’s vehicle, his body temperature was only 72 degrees, according to medical records. Mitchell would soon die at the hospital, still in the custody of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.
Newly-filed court documents in the Mitchell family’s civil lawsuit against county jailers, nurses, and others are raising competing versions of the decision-making that led to the 33-year-old’s death.
In separate court filings released Thursday, nurses Aleisha Herron and Brad Allred, as well as Quality Correctional Health Care of Alabama (QCHC), which provided medical services inside Walker County Jail, formally denied any wrongdoing in the days and hours that led up to Tony Mitchell’s death on Jan. 26. All three defendants — Herron, Allred, and QCHC of Alabama — are represented by the same attorney, LaBella S. McCallum.
Aleisha Herron, a nurse practitioner, had been called by county officials while at home, she said, and when she arrived at the jail around 4:00 a.m. and assessed Mitchell, she “immediately” ordered that he be sent to a hospital.
“Herron asked for a transfer immediately to the emergency department which is done by the jail for security reasons and a jail officer accompanies the inmate in the ambulance,” Herron’s lawyers wrote in her response to the Mitchell family’s suit.
Both Herron and Allred’s responses, however, contradict a report written by Braxton Kee, a Walker County Jail correctional officer who was on duty during those early morning hours leading to Mitchell’s death. That report, quoted in Mitchell’s lawsuit, indicates that medical staff said Mitchell’s transfer could wait until the next shift change, which wouldn’t take place until around 6 a.m., about two hours later.
“At approximately 4:17 a.m., medical advised the inmate would need to go to the hospital when oncoming shift arrived,” Kee’s report said. “Oncoming shift was advised.”
Both the nurses’ responses to the suit said the officer’s note is wrong.
“I do not think it is accurate,” both complaints said.
“In response to paragraph 110, it is denied that Herron instructed the jail officers at 4:17 a.m. that it would be okay to wait to transport Mitchell to the hospital until after the start of the upcoming shift,” Herron’s response said.
The defendants’ responses — both the nurses’ and the health care provider’s — denied their causing or contributing to Tony’s death. The defendants called the Mitchell family’s lawsuit “frivolous” and said the lawsuit was “filed in bad faith solely for the purpose of harassment.”
Thursday’s responses are the latest developments in the civil case over the death of Tony Mitchell, which is also being investigated by the FBI and state law enforcement for potential criminal prosecution.
On June 22, the federal judge presiding over the civil lawsuit denied a request by the defendants to delay certain elements of the case until after criminal investigations had concluded.
Anthony “Tony” Mitchell died on Jan. 27 after being incarcerated in the county jail for about two weeks. The 33-year-old had initially been arrested after his family — concerned about his mental health and safety — called local police for a welfare check. Police claimed that when they arrived, Mitchell fired a weapon at them. He was subsequently arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Two weeks later, Mitchell was dead, having suffered from hypothermia during his detention, according to doctors’ notes from his medical file. His family later filed suit against various Walker County Jail officials and workers, including the county’s sheriff, Nick Smith.
The Walker County Sheriff’s Office, which only notified the public about Mitchell’s death after reporter inquiries, has vigorously denied the allegations outlined in the lawsuit in court filings.
The office had initially said Mitchell was “alert and conscious” when he left the Walker County Jail for transport to a local hospital, a claim later refuted by leaked surveillance video from inside the facility that showed Mitchell’s limp body being placed by officers into a police vehicle.
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