Man Dies In Jail Cell After Misdemeanor Pot Offense

n-SAFFIOTI-large570By Radley Balko

Today’s story is part drug war, part police indifference and callousness, part police cover-up. It comes by way of a lawsuit filed by the family of Michael Saffioti.

Saffioti failed to make a court date on a misdemeanor charge for pot possession. In July of last year, he surrendered himself to Snohomish County, Washington authorities, who promptly jailed him. (The streets of Snohomish County were a little safer that day.) When it came time for breakfast the following morning, Saffioti is seen on video having a conversation with a guard while holding his tray. Presumably, he was inquiring about any dairy products in the meal. Saffioti had a severe allergy. He’s then seen taking a few bites of some oatmeal. (You can watch the video here.)

The awfulness that followed is detailed by KIRO TV.

Within a few minutes, Saffioti was back at the guard desk, using his inhaler.

According to the legal claim, he asked to see a nurse.

Instead, he was sent to his cell.

Over the next half hour, the video shows other inmates looking in Saffioti’s cell as he jumped up and down.

The legal claim says he pressed his call button and was ignored.

It also alleges that the guards told him h was “faking.”

About 35 minutes after he ate, a guard found Saffioti unconscious in his cell. The guard called for help and Saffioti was dragged out.

Nurses arrived and performed CPR. Everett firefighters took over and rushed Saffioti to the hospital where he was pronounced dead a half hour later.

Then the coverup began. County officials stonewalled Saffioti’s mother’s attempts to obtain video of the events leading to her son’s death, first by denying its existence. After Saffioti’s family discovered the police had lied about that, they turned over only non-incriminating portions of the video. The family was eventually able to force them to hand over the entire thing. So far, attorneys for the family have also been barred from interviewing jail staff or responding medical personnel.

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