- (Photo: Screen Grab KIRO TV)
After a young man in Washington died, his family is desperately seeking answers and justice after dying while being held in a jail cell in Snohomish County.
Michael Saffioti, 22, had no previous criminal record and had turned himself in due to an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for marijuana possession in July of 2012. While in custody, Saffioti suffered an allergic reaction and was not immediately given medical attention. More than a year after his tragic death, his family is still seeking answers and those responsible for this unfortunate occurrence.
Newly released video shows that guards at the jail callously ignored the man's pleas for help. Video shows that as Saffioti and other inmates formed a line to be served breakfast Saffioti approached guards regarding the contents of his meal due to his extreme allergy to dairy products. Later, the video shows Saffioti sit down and begin eating.
Moments later, Saffioti is seen approaching the guards with his inhaler, but instead of being given medical attention he was sent to his cell and for the next half hour was witnessed by other inmates. Reports also indicate that repeated calls for assistance went unheeded as guards accused Saffioti of "faking the reaction.
When guards finally checked on Saffioti, they alerted paramedics, who tried to resuscitate the young man but to no avail. He was later pronounced dead about a half hour later after being taken to a local hospital.
While the incident is tragic, the alleged cover-up by prison workers is even more outrageous. County officials allegedly blocked Saffioti's mother's repeated attempts to obtain video of the incident by denying the video even existed. Once that lie was exposed, the family was only shown an edited version of the video and sent on their way. Nearly a year later the family was able to see the entire unedited video, but attorneys for the family have been prevented from interviewing jail staff or responding medical personnel.
This is the eighth death in the Snohomish jail in three years.
A previous report the National Institute of Corrections found that the jail's health department is seriously understaffed and that overcrowding in the jail has caused serious safety hazards. But understaffing is not completely responsible for these types of incidents.
"This young man's death reflects the toxic mix of dehumanization, neglect and deceit. Inmates complain constantly about nearly every aspect of life in jail … the problem is that every once in a while, a complaint, like a life-threatening food allergy, is real," New York criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield told the Huffington Post.
The family has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the county and in an ironic and tragic twist, the state of Washington legalized the recreation use of marijuana four months after the incident.