Walker County residents seeking ‘Justice for Tony’

By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Savannah Denton

Dozens of residents from in and around Walker County gathered Saturday in front of the Walker County Courthouse, seeking answers after a man died in custody of the county sheriff’s office.

Anthony “Tony” Mitchell died in late January after spending about two weeks in the Walker County Jail on an attempted murder charge.

He was arrested Jan. 12 after a relative called 911 seeking help for Mitchell, who appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis. Walker County Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the call said Mitchell shot at them, which is why he was charged with attempted murder.

While the medical examiner has yet to release the official autopsy report, a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Mitchell’s family against the Walker County Sheriff’s Office claims hospital staff reported Mitchell’s body temperature at the time of his death as 72 degrees.

According to the lawsuit, Mitchell’s family believes he froze to death after he was left inside the jail’s walk-in freezer for hours.

The lawsuit also claims the sheriff and other employees attempted to cover up Mitchell’s abuse and cause of death.

A statement made by the sheriff’s office initially said Mitchell was “alert and conscious” when he left the jail.

But surveillance video released to the public by former WCSO corrections officer Karen Kelly contradicted the sheriff’s office’s statement. In the video, Mitchell is seen being carried to a police vehicle; his body is limp and unmoving, and at one point he’s deposited onto the ground.

The video’s release sparked outrage online and throughout the Walker County community.

“This seems to be a systemic issue here in Walker County,” said protester Tim Bowen. “Many events from the past have recently come up while this event has come in the spotlight. We are looking for a change, whatever it takes to get that change.”

Residents protesting are seeking accountability from the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and anyone else involved in his death.

During the protest Saturday, residents held signs calling for the resignations of Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith and anyone else involved.

“This right here is what Walker County looks like,” said event organizer Ryan Cagle. “There’s a long road ahead of us and we don’t have plans to stop.”

After several speeches at the courthouse, protesters marched through the streets of downtown Jasper and to the Walker County Jail.

An investigation is in its early stages and is being handled by the FBI and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

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