The video shows two sheriff's deputies dragging a limp body of handcuffed man down the long, sterile hallway of Wayne County Jail in Michigan. The deputies load the man into an elevator, where he lies face down and appears barely conscious. Eight days later, the man was dead.
The surveillance footage, obtained and released Monday by MLive Detroit, has shed new light on the case of 59-year-old Abdul Akbar, who died on November 1, 2014. Akbar told a nurse that he had been "stomped in the face" in a beating by jail guards. Investigations by Wayne County authorities and the Detroit Police Department found that the deputies were not responsible for Akbar's death, but the video has stoked suspicions of foul play.
An illegal metal scrapper with a history of mental illness, Akbar had been in jail since September 30 serving a nine-month sentence for breaking and entering. The video of him being dragged down the hall was filmed on October 23. According to documents obtained by MLiveDetroit, the guards contend that Akbar smashed a computer and refused to obey orders after he overslept that day and missed breakfast. He was injured in a scuffle that ensued.
Akbar spent nearly three hours in a segregation area of the jail before he was hospitalized. According to an internal affairs report, Akbar told a jail nurse his jaw felt "like it moved" and that he needed medical attention. The nurse concluded he looked "fine."
Akbar was transferred to a mental health unit for "assaultive behavior" on a female guard. The same report says that he was "lethargic" and made minimal eye contact with a mental health counselor. Another nurse voiced concern over a bump on Akbar's head. According to the internal affairs report, he said he was kicked and stomped by guards and "then the next thing I know, I was here… I blacked out, I guess."
Medical records show that Akbar's jaw was broken in two places, and he underwent surgery on October 15. David Robinson, an attorney for Akbar's daughter, told WXYZ Detroit that hospital records indicate doctors were concerned about possible bleeding on Akbar's brain. Robinson says there were no follow-up tests, and alleges that the brain injury worsened the following week and contributed to Akbar's death.
According to prison officials, Akbar requested water on the morning of November 1. When guards arrived at his cell, they found him unconscious on the floor. He was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. The Wayne County Medical Examiner concluded that he died from heart disease.
Akbar's daughter Malikah alleges that her father's death was a direct result of inadequate medical care. She has filed a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against Wayne County and two sheriff's deputies. Malikah Akbar and Robinson declined to comment, citing a temporary protective order from the court. Paula Bridges, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, said they were also unable to provide comment due to pending litigation.
During the investigations into Akbar's death, the Wayne County medical examiner conducted an autopsy and found no signs of bleeding on Akbar's brain. Announcing in August that no charges would be filed in the case, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said "it is probable that while resisting the handcuffs, [Akbar] received a fracture to the left mandibular joint and to the front of his chin," during the October 23 scuffle. She said "scientific evidence shows there was no medical connection" between the injury and his death eight days later.
It's unclear if there's surveillance footage of the incident that left Akbar with his jaw broken in two places. An internal affairs report says there are no video cameras in the housing pods of the jail. Most of the guards reportedly refused to submit to an internal affairs interview. More than a dozen inmates gave accounts that said Akbar was beaten, with three reporting that they did not see an assault. The two guards that were the focus of the investigation reportedly worked at the jail as recently as Friday.
Follow Tess Own on Twitter: @misstessowen