Richland family seeks answers after man's death in Franklin County jail


Mitchell Campbell died alone in a Franklin County jail cell.

His family knows that for certain, but they have many other unanswered questions about his death.

It was 12:37 p.m. July 12 when jail staff found the father of three bloodied and dead in his cell. He had a cut to the back of his head, which officials say was most likely caused from a fall.

The Richland man's death has left a hole in the hearts of many in the Campbell family. They have sleepless nights, and their days are constantly interrupted by grief.

But most of all, they are haunted by their belief that more should have been done to prevent their loved one from dying.

"I believe a mistake was made and it shouldn't have been," said Alan Campbell, Mitchell's grandfather who helped raise him in Richland. "Mitchell fell through the cracks, and there is no justice for him."

Campbell, 26, died of an apparent seizure caused by alcohol and drug abuse, according to the Franklin County Coroner's Office.

A little more than 48 hours before his death, Campbell, who was schizophrenic, was found naked and confused in a Pasco park. A police officer reportedly left him there earlier, alone in a wheelchair after he caused a disturbance at a nearby hospital.

Little is known about what happened to Campbell after he was booked into jail early July 10. It's unclear if jail staff sought mental health services to have Campbell evaluated or if he received any medical attention.

Franklin County Sheriff's Office officials have released few details about Campbell's death, and told the Herald they didn't want to talk about the case because of its ongoing investigation.

Authorities are awaiting the results of toxicology tests and a medical examiner's report before they can finish the investigation, said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant.

A lawsuit was filed earlier this month by Columbia Legal Services in Seattle that alleges the Franklin County jail subjects inmates to inhumane and barbaric practices.

Lawyers Melissa Lee and Nick Straley say jail staff misuse restraint chairs and pepper spray, handcuffed inmates for days to a fence in the booking area and ignored inmates' mental health needs, among other allegations.

The lawsuit alleges Mitchell spent time in a restraint chair.

An eyewitness told the Herald that Campbell was desperately pleading for help, intermittently screaming, shrieking and whimpering.

Lee told the Herald the jail is possibly the most inhumane of all the county jails the legal aid organization has ever examined in the state.

Sheriff Richard Lathim dismissed the lawsuit, calling it a "bunch of lies." He denied his jail staff mistreat prisoners and told the Herald the lawsuit comes with the territory of running a jail.

Hours before Campbell was booked, he spent time at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco to get treatment for apparent seizures, police reports said.

Campbell battled substance abuse, including an ongoing struggle with methamphetamine, his family said. They said he took medication for his mental health issues, but they were a "day to day battle," and he could be difficult to deal with when he used drugs or alcohol.

Police were called to Lourdes about 11:20 p.m. because Campbell was "being disorderly and causing a disturbance," police reports said. In multiple past cases, Campbell has been kicked out of hospitals for talking loudly about Jesus and God.

After police say Campbell was discharged, Officer Robert Harris used a wheelchair to push him across the street to Sylvester Park, where he left him, police reports said.

"Campbell said his feet and legs were hurting and (he) could not walk out of the hospital," Harris wrote in a police report. "Campbell was left in the park and advised not to return to Lourdes. At the time I removed Campbell, he was wearing a pair of hospital scrub pants and the hospital gown."

About 5 a.m., officers found Campbell naked with a hospital gown next to him, police reports said. He didn't know where he was, how he ended up naked or where his clothes were. Campbell was then booked into the Franklin County jail.

It's unknown if Campbell received treatment at Lourdes for his possible seizures or what time he was discharged from the hospital. Family members told the Herald that Campbell did not have a history of seizures.

Lourdes' officials said they are reviewing Campbell's stay at the hospital and don't want to talk about it any further.

The Campbell family is upset that he was left in the park and none of them was called, they said. They also questioned whether Campbell got the medical treatment he needed at the hospital.

"Why did the hospital release him the same day when he had two seizures?" asked Staci Campbell, Mitchell's aunt. "The point is the police wheeled him out to the park in a hospital gown. You don't leave him in a park. You don't do that."

Capt. Jim Raymond of the Pasco Police Department told the Herald that officers were asked to get Campbell off hospital property, and they did not leave him in an unsafe position. He said officers are not required to make contact with family members in that type of situation.

Campbell was taking anti-anxiety, depression and psychotic medication at the time he was arrested for lewd conduct in the park, his family believes. His father tried to bring some of his medication to the jail after Campbell was arrested, but he said it apparently wasn't packaged correctly and staff did not accept it.

That was the last time anybody in the family ever heard from Campbell.

Family members do not deny that Campbell's schizophrenia and substance abuse got him into trouble, but they say he wasn't violent with police.

Campbell was known to police officers in the Tri-Cities. He was arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct, destruction of property and violating a court order, records show.

The Campbell family has tried to hire a lawyer to represent them as they contemplate legal action against the county, but they have not been able to find one willing to take the case, they said. Family members have even gone as far to say Franklin County jail staff should be held criminally responsible for Campbell's death, and Lathim should resign.

"No amount of money will bring Mitchell back," Alan Campbell said. "I want Lathim removed and manslaughter charges filed."

However, for right now, all the Campbell family really wants is answers from Franklin County officials.

"We feel like we are in the complete dark," Staci Campbell said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in