DETROIT – The FBI on Tuesday said it has launched an investigation into the death of inmate David Stojcevski, who died while in custody in a Macomb County hospital.
The Local 4 Defenders broke the story and video of Stojcevski's death. The 32-year-old man was found unresponsive in his Macomb County Jail cell on June 27, 2014.
A pending federal lawsuit says Stojcevski suffered serious withdrawals from drug use and died after serving 16 days of a 30-day careless driving sentence. He lost 50 pounds during that time, and video shows him hallucinating in his cell and shaking with seizures.
In a statement, Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said he had met with the FBI and provided them with the completed investigation, internal investigation and approximately 240 hours of in-cell video.
"I promote transparency within my office and look forward to the findings of the F.B.I.," Wickersham said. "Any death that occurs in the Macomb County Jail is tragic, not only to the family of the deceased, but to the men and women of the Sheriff's Office who oversee the care and custody of our 1,200 inmates daily. Due to the current lawsuit, I am unable to comment on the in-custody death."
The FBI is now reviewing the case.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who is the county's former sheriff, told the Local 4 Defenders last week that, legally, the sheriff should not talk about the case because the county is being sued. However, Hackel said that doesn't mean county officials aren't concerned about what they see in the video.
"The information that they have has to be vetted out through a court process. It's tough to look at, no question about it, and it does give quite the impression that something went wrong," said Hackel. "And obviously something did."
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Stojcevski's final 10 days were spent in the Macomb County Jail's high-observation unit, where inmates do not get uniforms, which is meant for their own protection. The inmates are on video around-the-clock and are supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes.
Inmate had doctor-prescribed medications
Video shows Stojcevski's body twitched and his eyes fluttered as he went through withdrawal from doctor-prescribed medications.
County lawyers say the jail staff did what was legally required. Stojcevski's family calls it neglect.
"No matter what happened, if it was something that was neglectful or wasn't neglectful, it's just sad," said Hackel. "I mean, how do you not look at something like that and just go ... painful."
As a former sheriff, Hackel knows all about the challenges of running the jail. He knows there has to be a better way of taking care of mentally ill inmates and those who face serious addictions.
"This is something that can be avoided. How do we try to avoid these kinds of things at the onset, as opposed to now being incarcerated, having to answer questions like, 'What did somebody do that may have contributed to somebody's death?' And I don't have that answer. That will be played out in court," said Hackel.