YOUNGSTOWN Official: Jailers acted properly
Mitchell has been in a coma since Friday night and remains in critical condition.
By IAN HILL
and PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
YOUNGSTOWN -- The staff at the Mahoning County Jail acted prudently in its treatment of a 72-year-old man Friday afternoon, according to Sheriff's Maj. Michael Budd.
Booker Mitchell, 72, of Shehy Street, was brought to the jail Friday afternoon after a confrontation with Youngstown Police Officer Michael Walker. Mitchell was in critical condition today in Forum Health Northside Medical Center. He has been in a coma since Friday evening.
Family members say Walker, without provocation, beat Mitchell during the arrest. They also say that jailers should have sent Mitchell to the hospital but didn't.
Probe sought: Mitchell's family asked the local chapter of the NAACP to conduct an investigation into the arrest and the treatment Mitchell received at the jail. Willie Oliver, president of the NAACP's local chapter, may ask local law enforcement officials to take appropriate action.
That "appropriate action" would be determined by the results of the investigation, Oliver said. He added that the NAACP may ask Mitchell's family to contact the U.S. Justice Department about alleged civil rights violations committed by local law enforcement officials.
Both Mitchell and Walker are black.
Dennise Pennington, Mitchell's stepdaughter, said she spoke to investigators from the internal affairs division of the Youngstown Police Department on Monday about the arrest.
Walker arrested Mitchell on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing official business and resisting arrest. Police reports say that Mitchell argued with Walker at about 1:30 p.m. Friday about having a car towed from a parking lot on North Garland Avenue.
Mitchell repeatedly swore at Walker during the argument, according to reports. Walker told Mitchell that if he continued to use foul language, he would be arrested.
However, Mitchell told Walker, "It's my . . . car and I'll take it wherever I want." The reports say Walker then placed a "firm hand" on Mitchell and said he was under arrest.
But Mitchell "lashed back," the reports say, and a struggle ensued. Both Mitchell and Walker fell to the ground during the struggle.
Walker said he used pepper spray before placing handcuffs on Mitchell.
Budd said that Mitchell's eyes were treated with saline solution and eye wash when he arrived at the jail at 2:45 p.m. He added that jail officials also checked Mitchell's vital signs, including his blood pressure. They did not find any major problems, Budd said.
Still complained: However, Budd said Mitchell complained that his eyes were still irritated when he was released from the jail at 7:15 p.m. Friday. Pennington said that Mitchell couldn't walk Friday evening, and that he said his head hurt.
Mitchell told Deputy Matthew Reesch that he felt light-headed, Budd said. Mitchell's family members asked Reesch to call 911 for an ambulance.
Reesch called for his supervisor, Cpl. Ronald Denson, who brought along a nurse. They arrived within 20 to 30 seconds, Budd said.
The family, by this time, was calling 911 on a pay phone, the major said.
Mitchell complained of a headache and Denson and the nurse walked him to the rest room. Denson is black; the nurse and Reesch are white.
When the ambulance crew arrived, they walked Mitchell to the ambulance, Budd said, noting that Reesch, Denson and the nurse acted prudently.
In a coma: Pennington said she last spoke to her father Friday evening, before he went into a coma.
"We're not even allowed to go into there and talk to him and touch him," Pennington said.
She said that Mitchell suffered a stroke on Saturday morning. Doctors had to perform emergency surgery to stop the bleeding around Mitchell's brain that caused the stroke, Pennington said.
Those doctors have not linked the stroke to the confrontation with the police officer, she said.
Police Chief Richard Lewis did not return calls for comment. Lewis has said he wants all the facts surrounding the event before commenting publicly.