Warning: featured video may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
The family of Michael Sabbie is suing the for-profit prison which ignored his pleas for help.
In July of 2015, Sabbie was booked into the Bi-State Jail along the Oklahoma-Arkansas border.
He’d had an argument with his wife, Teresa, about money. The police were called after he allegedly threatened his spouse.
Law enforcement brought him to the Bi-State Jail, where he was held on a misdemeanor assault charge.
Sabbie, who had several health problems, warned nurses about his health. He told them he needed medication for heart disease, high blood pressure, and asthma.
Within three days, he was discovered dead on the floor of his cell.
In the hours leading up to his death, Sabbie hadn’t been silent.
He’d completed a medical history questionnaire upon check-in and told nurse Tiffany Venable that he was experiencing shortness of breath.
After he told her about a recent bout of pneumonia, she took his vitals and figured all was well. Instead of advising that he be allowed to take his medication and seek some sort of further treatment, Venable recommended that he go back to his cell and calm down.
He even got into an altercation with a guard, who forced him back into his pod after Sabbie screamed about his deteriorating health and pleaded for help.
In his report, the guard wrote that Sabbie had caused a ‘disturbance’ and that he was ‘feining [sic] illness and difficulty breathing.”
Once staff brought Sabbie under control, they dragged him into a nurse’s station.
He collapsed in the shower, was picked up by guards, and hurled unceremoniously back into his cell. Recordings show Sabbie rolling on the floor with his pants below his waist for nine minutes before the video cut out.
The next morning, he was dead.
Sabbie’s family and lawyers call the tragedy ‘senseless,’ noting how easily it could have been prevented.
His widow, Teresa, had been told by the Department of Justice that no charges would be brought forward against the Bi-State Jail or any of its staff.
On Wednesday, she and Sabbie’s remaining family filed a federal civil rights complaint, which accuses the Bi-State Jail of having “forced [Sabbie] to endure extreme and needless pain and suffering, and causing death.”
Teresa and her family’s attorney charge the Bi-State Jail of leaving Sabbie to die due to its status as a for-profit prison.
“The failure to secure needed medical care for Mr. Sabbie was motivated by constitutionally impermissible profit-driven reasons,” reads the complaint.
Teresa and Sabbie’s relatives are being represented by Budge and Heipt, LLC.
“Michael Sabbie was a human being, who deserves humane treatment,” said Heipt in a statement. “He was treated as if his life did not matter.”