Last September, Atlanta resident Kevil Wingo was booked for drug possession into the Cobb County Detention Center, where he ultimately died. Now video has been released of the 36-year-old repeatedly yelling that he couldn’t breath as deputies and medical personnel witnessed him slowly dying.
According to 11Alive, the details of Wingo’s death were concealed for nine months until the sheriff’s office finished its internal affairs investigation in June. The report says no staff member committed a crime or went against jail policy, nor was any disciplinary action recommended.
However, the Wingo family is slamming the jail, saying a crime was committed and the staff needs to be held accountable.
When Wingo arrived at the facility on Sept. 24, the jail sent him to the infirmary for “detoxification monitoring.” Staff prescribed medicine for his nausea after he explained that he used cocaine within the past 72 hours. Three days later, Wingo was returned to the general population by deputies.
By September 28, Wingo complained that he had intense abdominal pain. Deputies, fellow inmates and some medical staff immediately noticed that Wingo seemed ill. One person in particular, Deputy Matthew Howard, called the infirmary.
“He has been throwing up for a while now since I came on shift,” said Howard to a charge nurse, Yvette Burton. Not too long after, the infirmary’s phone rang again and it was Natasha Chance, a nurse in charge of giving medicine to inmates.
“He’s like, laying on the floor screaming, he’s sweating. He says he’s got abdominal pain. He can’t fake this,” Chance told Burton.
Various inmates also witnessed Wingo vomit and complain about an ulcer, which is a painful sore that can grow in the intestines or the stomach. Without treatment, it can tear and cause bile to leak into the abdomen.
“Within a couple of seconds, he just broke out in a big, big sweat,” said Billy Smith, a fellow inmate. “[Deputies] looking at us, like ‘He’s just detoxing.’ We’re like, ‘No, you need to come get him.”
“What happened is the guy was in pain and nobody took him serious. He was laying on the ground crying for help and no one took him seriously,” said Robert Ward, another inmate.
A little before midnight, jail footage shows a Deputy Quintin Appleby transferring Wingo to the infirmary in a wheelchair as he winces in pain. Appleby said he also heard Wingo complain about a ulcer. The footage can be viewed below without sound.
“He was saying, ‘I’m not going to make it. I’m about to fall out the wheelchair.’ And, I was kind of like, ‘No, you gonna be alright, we almost there,” said Appleby. By this point, Wingo’s vitals didn’t show any red flags. However, in the more than several hours that followed, Wingo repeatedly begged to be sent to the hospital and jail staff ignored his request.
Jail video shows Wingo knocking on the glass door of his cell attempting to get nurses attention and collapsing at least five times. Three employees said they heard Wingo yell that “he could not breathe,” however, only two believed him and one did not. Nobody acted to save his life.
“When he yelled at me, yelling in the cell block, he said, ‘I need to go to the hospital, I can’t breathe.’ And, I talked to him for a minute, and I was like, ‘If you’re hollering, you are breathing,’” said Lynn Marshall, a deputy assigned to the infirmary.
A jail secretary and a lab technician were so concerned with Wingo’s condition, they requested a different charge nurse, Annaleen Visser, if they could check his vitals. Visser responded with a no. WellPath, LLC is the current medical provider for the jail.
“He actually fell backwards onto the floor and crawled to the window and was asking again begging for help, saying he could not breathe,” said lab technician Tiffany Womack in an interview with sheriff investigators. Two inmates detained in the same infirmary cell as Wingo said he was falling into their beds and they both heard Wingo complain about his stomach or an ulcer.
Infirmary staff continued to witness the incident unfold, including Tiana Davis, a secretary whose desk sits directly across from the infirmary cell where Wingo was detained. “So, once he is banging on the door, he fell back,” Davis told an investigator. “So, I’m assuming he couldn’t breathe…I saw him fall back.”
Meanwhile, Visser refused to check Wingo’s vitals and she prevented anyone else from doing so because she believed Wingo was detoxing and only wanted to to go to the hospital for pain medication.
“He was loud, he was, I don’t know what he was saying, he was just disruptive,” said Visser in her investigation interview.
When investigators watched the jail footage they told Visser that Wingo didn’t appear rowdy as she had claimed. Visser said that she was unaware of Wingo’s pain or issues breathing. She also said that no one on her shift notified her that Wingo was in need of attention.
Davis and Womack says this isn’t true.
“Me and the secretary both asked the charge nurse, Annaleen [Visser], ‘Hey, he’s asking for help, can we help?’ She said, ‘No,’” explained Womack, who is also a trained EMT.
Deputy Marshall also believed Visser knew of the staff’s concerns.
“I mean, they all heard me. Well, I said that he’s saying he can’t breathe and I know Annallen [Visser] said he just wants to the hospital, he’ll be okay. She was the one that said put him in close-ops,” said Marshall.
After growing weary of hearing Wingo complain of dying, Marshall said Visser then asked deputies to transfer Wingo to a padded isolation room, which are holding cells for inmates who self-harm or are suicidal. However, even Visser said in her interview that no jail staff witnessed Wingo trying to hurt himself.
Despite no evidence of self-harm, Deputy Marshall complied with Visser’s request. “Hi, do you have a pad open?” asked Marshall on the phone with another jailer determining room availability. “I’ve got an idiot playing games trying to get to the hospital. He’s just playing around.”
When Marshall went to Wingo’s infirmary cell to transport him to the padded room, he collapsed onto the floor. Nine minutes went by before deputies could pick him up from the ground. On his trip to the isolation room, Wingno collapsed again and he wasn’t capable of walking. He was placed in a wheelchair and they continued moving.
When Wingo was placed inside the padded room around 7:48 a.m., they undressed him, left two cups of water inside and closed the door. Staff is required by jail policy to physically look inside isolation rooms every 15 minutes, however, according to jail footage, this didn’t happen.
When it was time to check on Wingo, the person assigned to him, Deputy Paul Wilkerson, walked past the pad’s window two different time and didn’t look inside.
After an hour passed when Wingo was placed in the padded room, Wilkerson found him cold to the touch and not breathing. Thirty minutes later, an ambulance finally transported Wingo to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, which was five miles away. Wingo was pronounced dead by a doctor at 9:51 a.m.
Cobb County Medical Examiner Dr. Abraham Philip ruled Wingo died from a perforated gastric ulcer. Wingo left behind three children. Kieara Wingo is his oldest child.
“How can so many people just sit around and watch somebody suffer like that and not help?” she said.
“At the end of the day, I feel like he shouldn’t have died like that. Like, he died alone. He died in a room screaming for help and he’s asking y’all for help,” said Tiffany Wingo, his sister.
“He wasn’t loud, he wasn’t disruptive. He was in pain,” said Timothy Gardner, the family’s attorney. “At the end of the day, they just didn’t care. There was nothing he could have done to make them care. It’s who they are.”
The family is now seeking justice for Wingo with a webiste, kevilwingo.com, that includes a 45 minute documentary with expert medical witnesses and recorded interviews conducted by sheriff investigators.
Wingo’s family has also filed a complaint against two nurses, Visser and Burton, with the Georgia Board of Nursing.
Wellstar emailed a statement on August 15, saying the nursing staff failed Wingo:
“While there is more to do and we continue to review the facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Wingo’s death, it is clear to us now that more should have been done to assist Mr. Wingo at the detention center, including from members of the Wellstar’s Detention Center team directly in charge of his medical care. What we have seen and learned of Mr. Wingo’s experience at the Detention Center is heartbreaking and unacceptable.”
The family’s attorney plans on sending a letter to the Cobb County District Attorney and Gov. Brian Kemp this week calling on a criminal investigation into Wingo’s death. A GoFundMe account was also started by the family, requesting donations as they continue their fight.