We are not going to tell you what you are seeing is NOT what you are seeing.
A father of four, Michael Sabbie, died in a Texas jail after being beaten, pepper sprayed, piled on top of, and hit on camera. In the disturbing video, you can hear and see Sabbie pleading with the police to help him saying he “can’t breathe.” The medical report of Sabbie’s death suggested he died in his sleep of natural causes, but since this video has been released a new investigation is sure to follow.
The basic details of Sabbie’s death, one of more than 800 jail deaths counted by The Huffington Post in the year after Sandra Bland died in jail on July 13, 2015, wouldn’t normally raise much suspicion. The initial news reports said that Sabbie, who was arrested on a domestic assault charge, was found “unresponsive” on the morning of July 22, 2015, suggesting he died in his sleep. A medical examiner ― noting Sabbie’s obesity and that he had significant heart muscle damage ― deemed his death “natural,” a label that implies it was an unavoidable tragedy. Those circumstances wouldn’t make Sabbie’s death terribly unique: Heart disease killed an average of 226 jail inmates a year from 2000 until 2013, making it the leading cause of jail deaths after suicides.
But calling Sabbie’s death “natural” obscures more than it illuminates, and would hide the failures that very likely could have prevented his death. A quick internal investigation might have absolved jail employees of any wrongdoing.
But in Sabbie’s case, there’s video, including handheld footage filmed by one of the guards. The video is being published here by The Huffington Post for the first time.
“If you just looked at the cause of death, you would think that Michael died of some sort of hypertensive heart condition, and that may be true,” said Erik J. Heipt, one of the attorneys representing the Sabbie family. “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. We’d never know that he said ‘I can’t breathe’ 19 times in the nine minutes that we hear in that video.”
Sabbie was arrested on July 19, 2015, after getting into an argument with his wife over money, according to a police report. Sabbie’s wife told an officer that he threatened her before getting out of the car and walking away. Another officer located Sabbie, who denied threatening his wife. Due to the alleged threat, Sabbie was arrested for third-degree assault on a household or family member, a misdemeanor.
Sabbie was taken to the Bi State Jail, a facility with 164 beds that housed 134 individuals as of this week. The for-profit company LaSalle Corrections has run the facility since 2013, when a previous company backed out because it reportedly could not turn a profit. Governments pay just $39.50 per day to house inmates at the Bi State lockup and $46.50 per day to place them at the Bowie County facility, a nearby facility LaSalle Corrections also runs. (The company that backed out of the previous contract submitted a competing bid of $56.25 per inmate per day.) Under the contract with Bowie County, LaSalle Corrections absorbs the cost of medical services and also indemnifies the county against any claims from inmates or their families.
How many times more can black people as a whole take these unwarranted deaths?