An African American man arrested by police in Portsmouth, Virginia, has been found dead in jail after spending almost four months behind bars without bail for stealing groceries worth $5.
Jamycheal Mitchell was jailed for $5 theft,found dead on the floor of his cell
Jamycheal Mitchell, , who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia was discovered lying on the floor of his cell by guards early last Wednesday, according to authorities. While his body is still awaiting an autopsy, senior prison officials said his death was not being treated as suspicious according to The Guardian.
Natasha Perry, the master jail officer at the Hampton Roads regional jail in Portsmouth, said of his death in an interview “as of right now it is deemed ‘natural causes’,” Perry said there were no obvious outward signs of injury to the 24-year-old’s body. Portsmouth police are looking into the death.
Mitchell’s family said they believed he starved to death after refusing meals and medication at the jail, where he was being held on misdemeanour charges of petty larceny and trespassing. A clerk at Portsmouth district court said Mitchell was accused of stealing a bottle of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a Zebra Cake worth a total of $5 from a 7-Eleven.
“His body failed,” said Roxanne Adams, Mitchell’s aunt. “It is extraordinary. The person I saw deceased was not even the same person.” Adams, who is a registered nurse, said Mitchell had practically no muscle mass left by the time of his death.
Officials said that after his arrest, Mitchell was taken to Portsmouth city jail, where he stayed for almost three weeks before being transferred across the city to the regional jail on 11 May.
Ten days after that, the court clerk said, Judge Morton Whitlow ruled Mitchell was not competent to stand trial and ordered that he be transferred to Eastern State hospital, a state-run mental health facility in Williamsburg, for treatment.
But the hospital said it had no vacancy and the 24-year-old was therefore detained in jail until his death on 19 August, according to Adams, Mitchell’s aunt, who said she had tried to assist the hospitalisation process herself but was left frustrated.
Adams said prison officials said her nephew had also been declining to eat. She said she saw Mitchell in court in recent weeks and estimated that he had lost 65 pounds since being detained. “He was extremely emaciated,” said Adams.
Additional reports from The Guardian