Settlement reached in suit over inmate death at Bi-State Jail

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A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit concerning the July 2015 death of a man at the Bi-State Justice Center jail in downtown Texarkana.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and defense announced Tuesday at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven that they have resolved the case stemming from the July 2015 death of Michael Sabbie. Sabbie’s family filed suit alleging wrongful death, excessive use of force and substandard medical care.

Defendants in the suit include LaSalle Corrections, Bowie County, Texarkana, Ark., and jail nurse and correctional staff. Texarkana lawyer Paul Miller, who represents the defendants, said there are still details to work out regarding the settlement. Sabbie’s family is represented by Texarkana lawyer David Carter and Seattle, Wash., lawyers Erik Heipt and Edwin Budge.

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Sabbie was taken into custody on the evening of July 19, 2015, by Texarkana, Ark., police following a verbal confrontation with his wife. Sabbie reported at intake in the jail that he is an insulin-dependent diabetic and that he suffers from high blood pressure and other problems. Despite his medical issues, Sabbie’s blood sugar was never checked and he was never given any medication while in jail, according to filings by the plaintiffs.

Sabbie repeatedly complained to jail staff that he was having trouble breathing and that he could not breathe while lying down. On July 21, as Sabbie and other inmates were returning from court, Sabbie asked to make a phone call. When Sabbie was denied his request, he turned and started walking toward the jail’s booking area where phones are located and was thrown to the ground by a correctional officer. About five other officers piled on top of Sabbie and another pepper sprayed him in the face.

As he is being dragged down a hallway toward a shower area as shown on video surveillance, Sabbie states repeatedly, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

In the shower, Sabbie is soaked with water but he is not given clean clothing or soap to wash the pepper spray off his body.

Sabbie was found dead in his cell the following morning.

The details of the settlement have not been made publicly available.

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