Video raises questions over Indiana inmate’s death

Photo of Shane Satterfield

DECATUR COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — After Shane Satterfield was arrested for drunk driving last New Year’s Eve, he turned himself in at the Decatur County Jail in what he thought was a new start.

In an exclusive interview, his mom, Lynn Brewsaugh, says jailers watched her son die.

“I think he must have been terribly scared and desperately sick,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Sick, but a doctor was never called. WANE’s sister station WISH obtained never before seen video raising questions about what happened over four days inside a jail.

SHANE’S STORY

Shane Satterfield was an admitted alcoholic. He was also a son.

“He was an avid reader, he loved to fish, he had a dog named Moxie,” Brewsaugh recalls.

Pulled over for a second OWI, he chose two weeks of jail over a year of probation. His mom heard him on the phone as, “He told his public defender he was kind of a heavy drinker.” Jail documents obtained by I-Team 8 show he also alerted the jailers during intake.

“He was a bit concerned about going through withdrawals,” Brewsaugh said.

But he saw jail as a way to save his life.

“He had planned to go to Fairbanks Addiction Treatment Center here in Indianapolis as soon as he got out,” Brewsaugh said.

He thought that 14 days in jail was a good starting point to recovery.

In four days, he would be dead.

HALLUCINATIONS

WANE’s sister station WISH obtained the jail video of the last hours of Satterfield’s life and the 224-page death investigation by Indiana State Police. The report says he called out for help, even writing it twice on the wall with his own feces. He tried to cut a dying message into his arm. Jailers later document to Indiana State Police that Satterfield wanted them to “check” on something if he died. He scrawled in the “C” and “H.”

Jailer statements to ISP show he believes there are snakes, a woman is being raped, screams “not to kill his mother…” believes there’s a bomb in his cell. Hallucinations documented by 13 jailers over four days.

“He didn’t want me to visit and I wish I’d visited anyway because if I’d known he was that sick I would have called and get him in the hospital where he belonged,” his mom said.

DT’S

Alcohol withdrawal can bring Delirium Tremens or DT’s including shaking, disorientation and hallucinations. Other counties confirm jail policies requiring inmates with hallucinations be hospitalized. Decatur County wouldn’t release their policy.

Dr. Sean O’Connor of the IU School of Medicine is also the director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center.

“It’s a lethal condition,” Dr. O’Connor said. “It really is an emergency. One in seven people die once they start this phase of illness.”

For the hallucinations, the state police report says Satterfield was offered Benadryl, an allergy medicine. When asked if Benadryl would do anything to help O’Connor said, “Not to my knowledge.” Other jails give a sedative: Vistaril in Hamilton County. Librium in Marion County.

MEDICAL WATCH?

The day he died, officers put Satterfield on a medical watch of every 30 minutes. Jail logs and video show hours passed and he wasn’t checked. Then in his final hours, no one checked him for 3 hours 15 minutes.

Attorney Stephen Wagner filed a lawsuit in federal court citing “wrongful death, deliberate indifference…and callousness” by the 13 jailers.

“Shane had an alcohol problem. He wasn’t what you would define as some sort of dangerous criminal,” Wagner said.

SHERIFF’S PERSONAL POLICY QUESTIONED

“When they finally realized, hey this guy is slumped over, nearly unconscious in the corner of the jail cell,” Wagner said. “He won’t respond, won’t eat, won’t take his medications and they finally realized all of that, instead of calling for an ambulance they called the sheriff.”

Does the sheriff have a policy that he has to be called before an ambulance is called so he can personally sign off on it? The sheriff declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Documents show the sheriff was called at 4:30 p.m. But statements from jailers and the time stamp from video inside Satterfield’s jail cell show the sheriff didn’t show up for another two hours.

“The sheriff wasn’t two hours late, he was three days too late,” one expert said.

“A person admitted to a hospital three days after hallucinations after DT’s start is really at high risk for dying, even in the hospital,” Dr. O’Connor said.

When the sheriff finally called for an ambulance, EMS records show he told them to “run non-emergent.” Satterfield stopped breathing as they arrived. He was dead 40 minutes later.

The attorney representing the sheriff and 13 jailers did not return WISH’s calls. The prosecutor confirmed he looked into criminal charges against the sheriff and jailers, but no charges were filed.

STATE WARNED THE JAIL

Wagner has 13 other jail death cases.

“The whole purpose of putting an inmate on a watch for Delirium Tremens is to do something if they progress to that point,” he explains. “So instead you have this terrible situation where jail officers are documenting someone dying. They are watching someone die.”

The coroner ruled he died of natural causes: complications of ethanol withdrawal. Satterfield never saw a doctor that weekend. Benadryl was prescribed via text. Yet for two years state inspections “strongly recommended” the jail hire on-site medical care, and found the jail overcrowded with too few jailers.

“He was there to serve a 14-day sentence,” Wagner said. “He was not there for a death sentence and that’s what it turned into.”

His mom has regrets.

“I thought when I dropped him off he would be safe,” she said. “I thought it would be a safe place.”

Shane Satterfield is buried within site, just two blocks, from the jail where he died.

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