Michael Sabbie, an inmate at the privately operated Bi State Jail in Texarkana, Arkansas, died in his cell in July 2015. The medical examiner declared Sabbie, 35, a father of four, died of “natural” causes related to heart muscle damage, according to the Huffington Post.
But a disturbing video shows there’s more to the story of Sabbie’s death while in custody at the jail for about 48 hours.
The police arrested Sabbie on a domestic assault charge on July 19, 2015. He allegedly argued with his wife, Teresa Sabbie, about money and verbally threatened her.
In the video, several corrections officers pile on top of Sabbie, who tells them that he can’t breathe—words reminiscent of Eric Garner, who uttered that same plea as a New York City police officer choked him.
Although Sabbie is clearly in medical distress, a corrections officer sprays him in the face with pepper spray while other officers hold him down.
Eventually, they take him to a staff nurse, who had seen him the previous day for complaints about trouble breathing. She again seems to dismiss Sabbie’s breathing problem.
Sabbie was then taken to his jail cell, where he collapsed and died overnight. Although the medical examiner concluded that Sabbie died of natural causes, the video indicates that his death could have been prevented.
Erik J. Heipt, one of the attorneys representing the Sabbie family, told The Post the video shows there’s more to the story than an inmate dying from a heart condition.
“But if we didn’t have a video, we’d never know that he had been begging for help due to his shortness of breath and inability to breathe,” he stated. “We’d never know that he said ‘I can’t breathe’ 19 times in the nine minutes that we hear in that video.”
The attorney added that without the video, these types of cases never get attention.
Heipt stated: “The jail or the county investigates itself, inmates aren’t interviewed, medical records are not reviewed, video recordings are lost or destroyed, and medical examiners who are in charge of determining the cause of death are not given complete information, and so the cause of death is either undetermined, wrong, or doesn’t tell the whole picture.”
According to The Post, the Justice Department informed Sabbie’s wife in a letter on August 1, 2016 that “after careful consideration” the department found insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone.
SOURCE: Huffington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter | VIDEO: YouTube, Daily Mail