Michael Saffioti had turned himself in to a Washington jail for an outstanding misdemeanor, but while there he died from a food allergy. A new video shows the moments in the jail leading up to his death.
The 22-year-old reported to the Snohomish County Jail in July 2012 for an outstanding warrant issued because he had been in possession of marijuana.
According to KIRO-TV, Saffioti had been booked before and therefore had a medical record on file listing his extreme dairy allergy.
On July 3, 2012, when breakfast was served, the video, without sound, shows Saffioti talking about the food with the guard and others around. Assured the oatmeal was fine for him, Saffioti took a few swallows.
“We know that he asked questions and made inquiries and he was assured the oatmeal in the food was safe for eating,” the family’s attorney Cheryl Snow told KIRO.
Soon after eating, Saffioti used his inhaler. From his cell, the legal claim stated that he asked to see a nurse. The video shows Saffioti drawing attention from other inmates as he jumped up and down in his cell window. He had pressed the call button for help.
Within 35 minutes after he ate, a guard visited Saffioti’s cell and found him unconscious, KIRO reported. CPR was performed on the inmate and he was transported to the hospital, but 30 minutes later was pronounced dead.
Here’s KIRO’s report with surveillance footage from the jail:
His family is now suing the county for $10 million.
“This video shows Michael clearly made his needs apparent, that his needs were ignored. Once he suffered distress he was further ignored,” Snow told KIRO.
Snow alleged the county initially withhold the surveillance video, saying it didn’t exist. The attorney filed a public records complaint to obtain it.
Legal blogger Scott Greenfield called Saffioti’s death a “toxic mix of dehumanization, neglect and deceit.”
“After all, to the guards, these aren’t people, but inmates,” Greenfield wrote. “That’s what inmates do, complain. Do something about the complaints and they’ll just be back complaining about something else tomorrow. Ignore them and they’ll still be back, but it’s easier to just ignore them again tomorrow.”
“The problem is that every once in a while, a complaint, like a life-threatening food allergy, is real. Not just real, but brutally real,” Greenfield continued. “To take the time to listen, to hear, to take seriously, a complaint is more than a guard can bear. Jails are all about routine, and routine applies to everyone. To expect (correctional officers) to treat inmates like people, to take the time to distinguish between real complaints and the typical noise is to expect them to be caring, intelligent people. That’s not part of the routine.”
Greenfield, like others, also took up the charge that Saffioti’s crime — possession of pot — made him “another casualty of the War on Drugs.”
(H/T: Daily Mail)