Lawsuit: Inmate with history of mental illness denied medications before death

He reportedly asked a detention officer four days into his time at the jail for his prescriptions, but nothing was done.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:45 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 9:27 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new lawsuit alleges that before an inmate at the Al Cannon Detention Center died, Charleston County deputies continued to observe his worsening medical condition, but “failed to intervene on his behalf.”

Despite a “well-documented” history of mental illness including diagnoses for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, court documents allege that 28-year-old D’Angelo Brown never received the treatments he needed.

He reportedly asked a detention officer four days into his time at the jail for his prescriptions, but nothing was done.

For four months, Brown was incarcerated at the Al Cannon Detention Center, except for a two-and-a-half-week stay at an area hospital.

Court documents state he was found unresponsive in his cell in the Behavior Modification Unit in the early morning hours of Dec. 21, where he was then taken to MUSC where he was pronounced dead eight days later.

Law enforcement arrested Brown in August 2022 for several charges, after they say he attempted to rob two people at a car wash at gunpoint and then entered a nearby home resulting in a confrontation with the family inside.

The new lawsuit describes in detail the deplorable conditions of his incarceration over the next few months. Court documents allege detention deputies continued to note his rapid deterioration.

They observed him naked in his cell, covered in feces and smearing it on the walls, the suit states.

On Aug. 14, Brown was reported to be “combative, paranoid, rambling, and nonsensical” and was “unable to eat.”

Less than a month later, after multiple similar reports in September, deputies noted he was “still in the same condition: naked, yelling, banging on the door, cell filled with water/feces and urine.” They also noted that he continued to appear increasingly agitated, court documents state.

He was hospitalized on Sept. 11 through Sept. 29, where he was medicated.

The lawsuit alleges that once he returned to jail, he never received his prescriptions and his condition continued to worsen.

Though a court ordered Brown to undergo treatment through the South Carolina Department of Mental Health in mid-December, this never happened either as it was determined he was also not fit to stand trial, the lawsuit alleges.

Brown is the sixth inmate from the Charleston County jail who died last year.

The lawsuit states during Brown’s time in the jail, the contracted medical provider was Wellpath, the largest for-profit healthcare provider to jails. Wellpath has been blamed nationally for at least 70 inmate deaths in other lawsuits. The lawsuit states that Sheriff Kristin Graziano even characterized the services provided as “woefully inadequate.”

The lawsuit, however, does not name Wellpath as a defendant.

The contract between the county and Wellpath is set to expire in June. The county began accepting bids in December for medical providers.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Knapp said that the department was working to address the issues at the jail before Brown’s death. He said that they know more work can be done and the department is currently working with the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office and the Ninth Circuit Public Defender’s Office to address concerns.

“Every Detention Center resident has the right to adequate medical care,” Knapp said. “While our staff cannot provide it directly, we are committed to providing access to quality care. We will continue to work with the on-site medical contractor and Charleston County to address concerns about the quality of care provided at the facility.”

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division confirmed Thursday it is investigating Brown’s death.

Charleston County has not responded to a request for comment.