Newly released video footage shows staffers and medical personnel standing by as a Black man slowly died in a county jail in Georgia last year.
In September 2019, 36-year old Kevil Wingo died at the Cobb County Jail in suburban Atlanta after repeatedly telling medical personnel that he could not breathe and was in extreme pain. The details of the case were kept under wraps until the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office completed an internal investigation in June, a probe local TV station WXIA obtained the results of this week, including previously unreleased videos.
Wingo arrived at the jail on Sept. 24 after being arrested on drug possession charges. He immediately underwent “detoxification monitoring,” because he admitted to having used cocaine within the previous 72 hours, but he was returned to the jail’s general population after several days, WXIA reported.
On Sept. 28, after Wingo complained of abdominal pain, Deputy Matthew Howard contacted the infirmary. He told charge nurse Yvette Burton that Wingo had been “throwing up for a while now,” adding that he had seen him vomiting.
A nurse named Natalie Chance made a second call to the infirmary, saying, “He’s, like, laying on the floor screaming, he’s sweating. He says he’s got abdominal pain. He can’t fake this.”
Several inmates recall hearing Wingo complain of an ulcer. One inmate, Billy Smith, said deputies assumed Wingo was just detoxing, and another named Robert Ward said he “was laying on the ground crying for help and no one took him seriously.”
Several hours later, Wingo was transferred to an infirmary just before midnight. Security shows him grasping his sides in pain as sat in a wheelchair. At the time, a check of Wingo’s vital signs did not come back indicative of any issues.
Footage shows that he collapsed five times while trying to knock on the door of his cell to get nurses’ attention.
When he told a deputy he needed to go the hospital, Deputy Lynn Marshall responded, saying, “If you’re hollering, you are breathing.”
During her interview with investigators, lab technician Tiffany Womack said Wingo was crawling on the floor of the cell, “begging for help, saying he could not breathe.”
Annaleen Visser, a nurse who was asked by a secretary and lab technician to take Wingo’s vitals again, said no, claiming he was just detoxing and trying to get pain medicine.
“He was loud, he was, I don’t know what he was saying, he was just disruptive,” she said during an interview with sheriff’s investigators.
After watching the footage of Wingo in his cell, sheriff’s investigators disputed Visser’s claim, saying, “We’ve seen the video, and I have yet to see him throughout the video acting out at all.”
Visser requested that Wingo be transferred to a padded isolation room. Although the rooms are intended for inmates who are suicidal and no one saw Wingo attempt to harm himself, Visser’s request was granted. Wingo has too weak to walk to the room and had to be transported by wheelchair. Within an hour of the transfer, Wingo was found cold to the touch in the cell. He was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead at 9:51 a.m.
Kieara Wingo, Wingo’s oldest daughter, spoke out after he father’s death, saying “How can so many people just sit around and watch somebody suffer like that and not help?”
In June, the sheriff’s office finished its investigation and found that no crime was committed. The Cobb County Medical Examiner said Wingo died a natural death caused by a perforated gastric ulcer.
The Wingo family attorney, Timothy Gardener, plans to send a letter to the district attorney’s office and to Gov. Brian Kemp, asking that a criminal investigation be opened regarding Wingo’s death.
Wingo’s family say he was an involved and loving father. “He didn’t miss any function when it came to the kids, even nieces and nephews. He didn’t miss nothing,” said his sister Tiffany.
While the Cobb Sheriff’s Office’s probe of its own personnel found no wrongdoing or violations of department policy on the part of its staff, Wellstar Health System, which ran the infirmary at the jail at the time of Wingo’s death, told WXIA that Wingo’s treatment in the hours before his death was “unacceptable.”
“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,” Wellstar told WXIA in an email. “What we have seen and learned of Mr. Wingo’s experience at the Detention Center is heartbreaking and unacceptable.”