Federal lawsuit filed after Jasper Police Department Jail detainee dies in cell
BEAUMONT, Texas — On January 28, 2019, Mitchell Qualls was arrested by the Jasper Police Department for Public Intoxication at a local hospital. He was taken to the Jasper Police Department jail / holding facility and booked in shortly after 10 p.m. Police officers did not change Mitchell into appropriate jail clothing but instead left him in his street clothes. He was then locked up in the “detox” cell so that he could “sober up,” according to a press release,
Officers knew before arresting Mitchell that he was exhibiting bizarre behavior, talking to his reflection in a glass door at the hospital. They also knew that he made no sense when trying to communicate. Officers also knew that Mitchell’s impairment was likely due to illegal drugs, and not alcohol.
According to records, Mitchell was not provided any medical or mental health care once he was incarcerated in the Jasper jail. Several people working for the Jasper Police Department attempted to communicate with Mitchell, without success. Mitchell would talk as though he was talking to a non-existent person. He would open his mouth to speak, but would speak no words. He vomited twice during the second night of incarceration. One such time, a police officer found in the vomit a baggie like that used to hold drugs. The officer simply threw the baggie away and went on with his business.
Roughly 34 hours after Mitchell was put into a jail cell in Jasper, he died of a likely drug overdose. Mitchell was only 28 years old.
A federal lawsuit was filed on March 30, 2020, in Beaumont, on behalf of Mitchell’s family. The lawsuit claims that Defendants violated Mitchell’s constitutional rights to reasonable medical/mental health care, to be protected, and not to be punished as a pre-trial detainee. The lawsuit also alleges that the City of Jasper violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act.
Constitutional rights lawyer Dean Malone represents the family.
Malone said, “Mitchell needed help, and it would have been apparent to anyone that he would not have appeared intoxicated for more than a few hours after arrest. When Mitchell began throwing up – even a baggie that likely contained drugs when ingested – it was even more obvious that he needed emergency medical treatment. Instead, he was just left in the cell. A young man arrested for public intoxication should not die alone in a cell, with no treatment, in vomit-stained clothing. Our society is better than that.”