PORTSMOUTH, Va. - An inmate was cleaning up his own bloody vomit then died two days later, according to a former inmate who was in a nearby cell inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail.
Now the Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is calling for a federal investigation into the jail.
Former inmate Brent Lashley said Henry Stewart was throwing up blood, sometimes multiple times a day, and repeatedly asking for a doctor.
“He was stepped over like an animal and at that point I knew it was not going to end well,” said Lashley.
Lashley said he is haunted by what he saw inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail.
He said he was in a cell near 60-year-old Stewart who died inside the jail on August 6.
“For the last two weeks of his life I saw him throw up blood daily, on a daily basis. The last three or four days it was multiple times a day,” said Lashley.
Last week we spoke to Stewart’s family.
The family showed News 3 an emergency grievance form they say was in a bag full of Stewart’s possessions that were returned to the family when he died.
The document indicated that Stewart had blacked out twice in 24 hours and couldn’t hold down water or food. He wrote he didn't know how many emergency grievances he had written with the same reply - wait on your appointment.
Two days after the grievance was apparently written, Stewart was dead.
“We showed them, ‘Hey you know he's vomiting blood.’ We showed them blood in the toilet so they knew there was a problem. Nothing was done about it. It was just sad to watch - it was hard to watch,” said Lashley, “People didn't want to step up and say anything, and those that did were ignored. Seems like a culture of fear and intimidation.”
Attorney General Herring wants federal authorities to examine whether or not inmates are getting the proper medical care.
This comes after Stewart’s death but also after the death of 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell in the same jail about a year ago. His family has filed a $60 million lawsuit.
“It was stranger than fiction. We are watching the same thing on TV that I'm watching that I'm seeing in real life. It was weird,” said Lashley, “So callous and inhumane and it kind of shook my faith in humanity.”
Medical care is provided by a contract vendor, according to Herring.
A lawyer for the jail would only say they can’t comment on possible pending litigation or talk about an inmate’s medical treatment.
Lashley said Stewart gave him his sister's phone number before he died and apparently asked Lashley to contact his family to let them know what happened in case he died.
Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) issued the following statement on Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s request that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division open a pattern-or-practice investigation of the Hampton Roads Regional Jail:
I commend Attorney General Herring for requesting a federal pattern-or-practice investigation of the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The circumstances surrounding the death of Jamycheal Mitchell last year and the recent death of Henry Clay Stewart raise serious questions and concerns about this facility. These investigations can determine whether or not the constitutional rights of the incarcerated, as well as federal law, have been violated.
Data on deaths that occur in jails, prisons, or in the process of arrest must also be collected to identify patterns and problems so that local, state and federal officials can assess what steps need to be taken to reduce incidences of avoidable deaths. That is why I sponsored the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013, which was signed into law by President Obama in December 2014. I am working closely with the Department of Justice to ensure that the law is fully implemented so that this data can be collected and evaluated.
The recent deaths at Hampton Roads Regional Jail are an unfortunate reminder of the need for this data.