St. Louis County Justice Center believed inmate who died had headache or virus

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St. Louis County Justice Center

CLAYTON, Mo. –  An internal investigation found that jailers and nurses at the St. Louis County Justice Center believed that a man suspected of shooting and wounding an officer had a bad headache or a virus before he became the fifth inmate at the lockup to die in custody last year.

Thirty-one-year-old Jo’von Mitchell had worked for hours on Dec. 23, pushing food carts and showed “no signs of distress“ in surveillance video, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The report suggests the first sign of illness was when he could not get off the floor of his cell to visit a family member at about 1 p.m. on Dec. 24, and that he did not ask to be taken to a hospital until early the next morning.

Even though the jail staffers seemed to understand by 4:30 am. on Dec. 25 that Mitchell was very sick, it took more than eight hours to transport him to the infirmary. It’s not clear what medical attention he received in the infirmary before a nurse found him unresponsive in a cell in the infirmary at 5 p.m. on Dec. 25. He died on Dec. 27. The medical examiner has not ruled on his cause of death.

Mitchell’s brother said Tuesday in an interview that jailers should have rushed his brother to the hospital when he was unable to get to his feet, suggesting they did not care about his health because he is facing charges that he shot a county police officer in the arm while trying to evade arrest. Mitchell had been in custody since October 2016 on charges that included assault on a law enforcement officer.

The brother and the Post-Dispatch both received written statements from several inmates on Mitchell’s floor who said that corrections officers could be heard saying Mitchell was faking his symptoms. The county’s internal report does not address any of those allegations.

In an interview last week, Mitchell’s cellmate, Ricardo Cueto, insisted the jail staff failed to act with urgency to treat an obviously very sick person, disputing statements shared by County Executive Sam Page’s office that Mitchell had received immediate medical attention. Page’s spokesman in a text last week said Mitchell had received treatment “within two minutes of reporting his symptoms to jail staff.”

Mitchell’s death is the first to occur after a series of changes and the appointment of a new jail director in the wake of four other in-custody deaths. Previous reporting by the Post-Dispatch in those cases put a spotlight on a pattern of jail staffers delaying or refusing to treat very sick patients.

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