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Inmates say they were threatened for speaking up about Jamycheal Mitchell’s death

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-22 20:18:51-04
Jamycheal Mitchell

Jamycheal Mitchell

PORTSMOUTH, Va. -  Jail inmates say they've been threatened and denied food after they were named in a federal lawsuit against Hampton Roads Regional Jail.

Jamycheal Mitchell died in a jail cell last summer. In May, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. In documents filed in the case, four inmates say corrections officers have been targeting them because they were named in the lawsuit as witnesses to his alleged mistreatment. The inmates wrote to Mark Krudys, the attorney representing Mitchell's family. Krudys has asked a judge to make sure the inmates are kept safe.

On Wednesday, State Police announced an investigation into the case has started.

"The officer told me the other day that I was walking the green mile and I'm a dead man walking," wrote inmate Jade Johnson in a letter to Krudys. In the lawsuit, Johnson identified corrections officers he says refused to give Mitchell food and abused him.

Mitchell was arrested in April 2015 for stealing $5 worth of snacks from a Portsmouth convenience store. Due to a series of missteps detailed in a state investigation, Mitchell was never sent to a state mental hospital  for mental treatment. He died in August 2015.

From jail, inmate Steven Gray told News 3 exclusively he's in fear because of the officers. He says his food has been tampered with and he's not sure what will happen next. "What are [the corrections officers] going to try to do? What are they going to say?" he said.

Gray says he was in the cell next to Mitchell. "Sometimes officers would come, they'd be six or seven deep, they would come and cuff him," Gray said. "They would cuff him while he was naked and bring him out in the pod where everyone would laugh at [Mitchell]."

Jade also spoke with a reporter on Wednesday night. He says he's facing a weapons charge. Gray is accused of murder. Both say to believe them because they're only involved to get the word out about what happened.

"I'm not asking for anybody to believe me," said Johnson. "I'm just letting it be known, reaching out for people to understand there needs to be something done about the way they treat people in here."

Sheriff Watson of Portsmouth made a statement in regards to this, saying if any inmate's family "fear for the safety of a family member currently in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail that he will have them moved to and receive the protection of the Portsmouth City Jail. Some restrictions may apply."

In response to the lawsuit, a statement from the attorney read: "We deny the allegations made against our facility and staff and believe that the facts will establish that our employees were professional and caring in their interactions with Mr. Mitchell."

Two of the inmates have been transferred to Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

On Friday, the jail responded to the allegations.

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