A Mississippi man who was arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge last May and died a day after being booked into the county jail was allegedly beat and tortured before being left to die in his cell, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family.
The family of 36-year-old Harvey Hill filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday, according to Mississippi Today.
Hill was booked into the Madison County Jail on May 6, 2018, and that same day, he reportedly got into an altercation with another inmate during mealtime. According to the suit, jail employees intervened in the altercation, handcuffed Hill, beat him, pepper sprayed him and then threw him into his cell—where he was found unresponsive the next day. Hill was taken Merit Central Hospital in Jackson, Miss., where he was pronounced dead.
Derek Sells—an attorney with Cochran firm who is representing the family—told Mississippi Today: “We say that was a custom and a practice that was tolerated by Madison County Detention personnel. When one of the guards took offense at what prisoners did, they would beat them. And they would punish them in cruel and unusual ways in order to try and set an example.”
Madison County, its sheriff Randy Tucker and several other jail employees are named as defendants in the lawsuit. According to a spokesman for the Madison County Sheriff, as of Tuesday afternoon, the department had not been served with a lawsuit. The department declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The family attorneys told Mississippi Today that they have secured eyewitnesses who saw the beating, and they believe video of the incident exists.
Carlos Moore, another attorney representing the family, said the misdemeanor charge for which Hill was arrested would have yielded him at most a $300 to $500 fine.
Hill had a previous conviction for sexual battery in 2001 and was a registered sex offender. It should be noted that the 2001 charge had nothing to do with why he was arrested and died in jail 17 years later.
Moore also said that Hill was one of three suspicious deaths to occur at the Madison County Jail last year.
Lanekia Michelle Brown, 37, was pregnant when she died in the jail after being arrested for drug trafficking on Nov. 26. She died on Dec. 23 while still in custody, after having complained about stomach pains.
Larry Thompson, 51, was booked into the jail on Nov. 17 and reportedly beaten by jail staff. Thompson was taken to the hospital by family members after he was released. He died Dec. 1.
Moore told Mississippi Today that civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump will be assisting him in the Lanekia Brown case.
Moore also said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice are investigating Hill’s death.