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YOUNGSTOWN Family of man who died after arrest files suit



Published: Sat, July 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The complaint names city police and jail personnel.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The family of a 72-year-old man who suffered a stroke after an arrest last summer and died in February has filed a civil lawsuit seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

Cleveland attorney Terry H. Gilbert filed the complaint Friday in U.S. District Court. He represents Mattie Mitchell, Booker T. Mitchell's widow, and Denise Pennington, his stepdaughter, both of Youngstown.

The complaint names the city of Youngstown, five city police officers, the Mahoning County jail, a jail nurse, Prison Health Services, various unknown city police officers and various unknown medical personnel at the jail.

Booker Mitchell died Feb. 15 at Forum Health Northside Medical Center. In May, Trumbull County Coroner Ted W. Soboslay issued a homicide ruling.

Lt. Robin Lees, police department public information officer, declined to comment Friday, saying he hadn't seen the complaint. In May, Lees characterized the coroner's ruling as a technical homicide.

Mitchell had been in and out of the hospital and other care facilities several times after his arrest July 13, 2001. At the time, he was charged with obstructing official business, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Health problem

Mitchell, Lees said in May, was 72 and had a pre-existing health problem -- high blood pressure. As a result of the contact Mitchell had with the arresting officer, the elderly man's blood pressure was raised to a point where he developed a stroke, Lees has said.

After a lengthy investigation of the arrest, which included eyewitness testimony, the police department's Internal Affairs Division concluded no wrongdoing.

In the complaint filed Friday, Gilbert alleges that Booker Mitchell was knocked head-first into a parked van, which caused a dent in the van. Once at the jail, Mitchell complained of headaches and fatigue and had incoherent speech, but no jail officials offered proper medical assistance, the lawyer said.

Once released from the jail and hospitalized, a CT scan showed he had suffered a brain hemorrhage, Gilbert said in the complaint.

Sheriff Randall A. Wellington said Friday that he hadn't seen the lawsuit and would reserve comment until he has a chance to review it.

Gilbert said police used excessive force and jail personnel recklessly mistreated Mitchell. "Ultimately, the injuries received resulted in Booker T. Mitchell's untimely and wrongful death," the lawyer said.

The complaint asks for compensatory damages exceeding $75,000 and punitive damages, both to be determined at trial, and attorney fees. The complaint asks that a jury hear the case.

"There is no evidence to support that any direct contact resulted in life-threatening injuries to Mr. Mitchell," Lees has said. "He died as a result of complications -- acute intracerebral hemorrhage -- probably due to exacerbation of his underlying hypertension."

meade@vindy.com




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