An Alabama Inmate Died of Hypothermia. His Family Claims Jailers Locked Him in 'Freezer'

Tony Mitchell’s death certificate, which was just made public, rules his death a homicide and attributes it to his treatment in jail

Tony Mitchell
Tony Mitchell

The Alabama inmate was tasered and for 14 days kept in a temporary holding cell that was allegedly referred to by local sheriff’s deputies as “the freezer” because of the cold air they would blast into it, according to a lawsuit.

Then, he died of hypothermia.

Now, Tony Mitchell’s revised death certificate – just obtained by PEOPLE – rules that his death was a homicide, caused by hypothermia and “sepsis resulting from infected injuries obtained during incarceration and medical neglect.”

Last year, Tony's mother, Margaret Mitchell, filed a civil complaint in the Northern Division of Alabama’s Southern Division U.S. District Court for wrongful death in connection with her 33-year-old son's alleged treatment at the Walker County Jail in Jasper, Ala.

Tony Mitchell
Tony Mitchell

In the complaint, obtained by PEOPLE, the family’s lawyers allege that Tony was kept in a cell they described as a cold “bare concrete ‘drunk tank,’” intended only for brief holding, with a small hole in the ground serving as a makeshift toilet. The lawyers allege Tony was denied proper medical treatment for his taser wounds and his drug addiction and made to suffer “frigid temperatures,” leading to his death on January 26, 2023.

“I am not sure what circumstances the patient was held in incarceration but it is difficult to understand a rectal temperature of 72° F 22° centigrade while someone is incarcerated in jail,” the emergency room physician wrote around the time of Tony’s death in medical records transcribed into the complaint, adding: “I do not know if he could have been exposed to a cold environment.”

Jon C. Goldfarb, who represents the family, tells PEOPLE the family is suing because the jail has left many questions unanswered about Tony’s final days.

“The family looks forward to moving forward with this case,” Goldfarb says. “And getting answers to not only what happened to Tony Mitchell, but why it happened and what can be done to make sure this never happens to anyone else.”

<p>Google Maps</p> Walker County Jail in Jasper, Ala.

Google Maps

Walker County Jail in Jasper, Ala.

Among those the family are holding responsible for Tony’s death is Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith, Jail Administrator Justin White, 13 corrections officers, and two jail-staffed nurses, among others listed in the complaint.

The complaint includes timestamps from jailhouse videos that a concerned correctional officer leaked to the family, which allegedly led to her firing, the complaint claims.

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In the week’s before Tony’s death, his cousin grew concerned with what the family lawyer said was Tony’s “delusional” state of mind caused by years of methamphetamine addiction.

So, on January 12, 2023, Tony’s cousin, Steve Mitchell, called the Walker County Sheriff’s Department for help, but he could not get anyone on the line, per the complaint.

Ultimately, he called 911, asking for a wellness check and an ambulance saying he feared Tony was having a mental breakdown.

Tony Mitchell
Tony Mitchell

Sheriff’s deputies arrived at Tony's Carbon Hill, Ala. home that afternoon, and per a release the department put on Facebook and was cited in the complaint, Tony “immediately brandished a handgun, and fired at least one shot at Deputies before retreating into a wooded area behind his home.”

The deputies arrested him and took him to jail.

Fourteen days later Tony was dead.

Sheriff Nick Smith declined comment to PEOPLE through his secretary.

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