Bemidji, MN – “Pervasive” policy failures leading to “regular and gross violation[s] of Minnesota jail standards” were found in a second review of the death of 27-year-old Hardel Sherrell in Beltrami County Jail. The findings of the re-review were detailed in a May 15 letter from Minnesota’s Department of Corrections (MN-DOC) to the Beltrami County Sheriff.
Father of three girls, Sherrell was healthy on August 24, 2018, when he was transferred to Beltrami County Jail to await court proceedings on a gun charge. Nine days later he died in a medical segregation cell from complications due to Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
Sherrell repeatedly pleaded for help as his health quickly deteriorated. Jailers and doctors said he was “faking” his sickness. He was eventually taken to the hospital only to be discharged after a quick visit. He died the next day.
A first review of the death of Mr. Sherrell concluded that all procedures were done in compliance with jail standards. That report was either a blatant cover-up or extremely insufficient, as jail videos and documents gathered by the legal team of Del Shea Perry, Sherrell’s mother, proved extreme medical negligence by the jailers. The re-review states that Beltrami County initially only gave the DOC Inspection and Enforcement Unit 12 hours of data from before Sherrell’s death for the first review.
Perry filed a lawsuit against dozens of defendants, including Sanford Health and Beltrami County last fall claiming medical malpractice, wrongful death, and constitutional rights violations.
In an exclusive release last November, Unicorn Riot published six videos from the Beltrami County Jail and a timeline of events depicting the negligence shown towards Sherrell during his detainment – Harrowing Footage Shows Man’s Last Days Before Dying in Jail.
In December, DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell ordered a re-review of Sherrell’s death. The updated review gained access to all of the other data, including “476 hard copy documents and approximately 828 video clips” from Sherrell’s nine days incarcerated and the aftermath of his death.
The re-review findings letter was signed by DOC Inspection and Enforcement Unit Director, Timothy Thompson, and was addressed to Beltrami County Sheriff Ernie Beitel and cc’d to Schnell, two other DOC staff, and Beltrami County’s Jail Administrator Calandra Allen. Beitel replaced retired Phil Hodapp, who was sheriff at time of Sherrell and several other recent deaths in the jail.
Jail Administrator Allen is a defendant in Perry’s lawsuit, which among other things, accuses her of overriding a jail doctor’s orders to bring Sherrell to the hospital three days before he died claiming Sherrell was trying to escape. Allen is also specifically mentioned in the re-review findings as not following the protocols of health care.
The letter lists four violations but “did not document each specific violation of well-being checks or other requirements” as there were so many. Along with the listed violations were the findings and suggested corrective actions of re-training and implementing policy updates all with a deadline of July 1, 2020.
The violations come with no consequences from the DOC, but a warning was given that if continued violations occur, punitive actions would be taken.
“While it is beyond the scope of our authority to determine whether or not compliance with the rules would or could have resulted in a different outcome, the deterioration of Mr. Sherrell’s condition over his nine-day term of incarceration in the Beltrami County Jail is notable and disturbing.” — Quote from re-review letter signed by Timothy Thompson, MN-DOC Inspection and Enforcement Unit Director
Perry said to Unicorn Riot that she wants criminal charges filed “immediately against those who were directly involved with the murder of [her] son.” She expressed appreciation to DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell for the re-review and said she seeks justice and accountability for those involved.
“Now that it’s in writing and from the head of the DOC, what are they going to do about it? We feel criminal charges need to be filed immediately against those who were directly involved with the murder of my son! I repeat, murder, because that’s exactly what they did. And they need to be held accountable for their actions. Justice must prevail! We appreciate the actions of Paul Schnell and the DOC for the re-review.” — Del Shea Perry
Read the DOC letter, obtained through Del Shea Perry and Paul Blume of Fox 9, below.DOC letter of findings in Sherrell death 5.15.20
This review validates what the videos show and what Sherrell’s mother has been saying all along, that her son died an agonizing death of medical neglect from jailers who couldn’t care less. She said that this five-page re-review was like “night and day” compared to the first review that was a paragraph long.
On November 19, 2019, two weeks after the jail videos were published and after the first review came back with nothing wrong, Perry held a rally outside the offices of Minnesota’s DOC and attempted to speak with the inspector of the first review. We were live for the rally, see the video below.
During a January 2020 press conference called ‘The St. Paul Police Department (SPPD): A Decade of Disgrace in Review’, on the fifth year anniversary of Marcus Golden being killed by SPPD, Perry spoke about her son’s case and how it wasn’t isolated, that Stephanie Bunker and Tony May also died in Beltrami County Jail in the last five years.
She said that “as a mother who has lost her only child” something had to be done to prevent further deaths in the jail. The corrective actions in this re-review, like following well-being check protocols, are a start to preventing further medical negligence.
The four violations, findings, and corrective actions listed were as follows:
- Chapter 2911.2850 INMATE DISCIPLINE PLAN. Subpart 6. Removing clothing and bedding
- Findings: On August 29, 2018, at approximately 4:41 am, staff helped Mr. Sherrell remove his pants so he could use the toilet. His pants were not returned until August 31 at approximately 9:44 am. This did not appear to be neither a behavioral issue nor a disciplinary issue, and therefore is a violation of the rule. Mr. Sherrell was provided with a “Depends” type of undergarment, but was not provided pants, or other appropriate alternative clothing. Facility policy meets the requirements of the rule. However, based on this review, it appears staff did not act according to policy.
- Corrective Action: All facility staff shall be re-trained on the policy requirements. Training shall be documented. Provide training verification to the DOC no later than July 1, 2020.
- Chapter 2911.4500 SUPERVISION OF MEAL SERVING
- Findings: Video footage from the dormitory area shows inmates delivering meal trays into the dormitory with no direct staff supervision. Additional video footage of a different location shows an inmate loading meal trays from one cart to another, and then he delivers those trays to various locations while under no direct supervision of staff. Policy is clear that meals must be served under direct supervision of staff.
- Corrective Action: Staff must directly supervise distribution of meal trays in all areas of the facility. Provide documentation that staff have been re-trained and have signed off on facility policy. Documentation of training and policy sign-off must be submitted to the DOC no later than July 1, 2020.
- Chapter 2911.5000 POST ORDERS; FORMAL INMATE COUNT; WELL-BEING CHECKS
- Findings: Unit staff reviewed hours of video footage of Mr. Sherrell while he was housed in the dormitory area (2nd Floor Room 207). During the first day in which Mr. Sherrell was housed in this area (August 24, 2018), there were nine violations of the well-being check rule. According to video footage, the time between some checks was in excess of fifty (50) minutes. Based on video review, on August 25, 2018, from 1800 hours (6:00 pm) until 2400 hours (midnight), there were four more checks that exceeded thirty minutes. Video review from August 24 through August 25, 2018 shows there were no less than thirteen well-being checks that exceeded the 30 minute well-being check requirement. The remainder of the video review focused on other rule requirements, as it was clear that well-being check violations were pervasive. Review of written documentation also verifies violations of well-being checks. Written documentation on August 24, 2018, indicates two of the well-being checks logged were approximately sixty minutes between checks. Documentation indicates that there were at least four checks logged on August 26, 2018, which exceeded the thirty minute requirement. The well-being checks documentation reflect a range of 33 minutes to 60 minutes between the required checks. Well-being check documentation reviewed for August 28, 2018 indicates nine checks that exceeded the rule requirements. Documentation notes reflect a range from 33 minutes to 60 minutes between the required checks. There is clear evidence from video and written documentation review to verify the regular violation of the rule requiring that well-being checks to be completed every thirty-minutes or less and for those checks to be staggered. In addition, staff provided no documentation that a facility emergency interfered with their ability to perform the required checks as provided in the rule. Facility policy (508.2) and Well-being Checks procedure (508.3) appear to set forth clear expectations for staff in terms of completing and documenting well-being checks. Based on review of video, facility logs for well-being checks, and facility policy and procedure, staff did not complete and document well-being checks according to facility policy and procedure.
- Corrective Action: All staff shall be re-trained on facility policy and procedures related to proper well-being checks and proper documentation of well-being checks. Additionally, facility administration must develop and implement policy and procedures to audit and document reviews of well-being checks. Documentation of training and new policy and procedure must be submitted to the DOC no later than July 1, 2020.
- 2911.5800 AVAILABILITY OF MEDICAL AND DENTAL RESOURCES. Subpart 2. Health care.
- Findings: On 8/30/2018, there is a notation on the MEND “Medical Staff Narrative Note” at 0740 hours that indicates Dr. Todd stated they were to send the patient to the ER for evaluation. At 1330 hours there is a notation that indicates “Jail Administrator Calandra stated they would not be pt to ER for evaluation.” Additional notations state “Medical has been given information that may indicate a possible escape attempt.” Subsequent to the orders given on August 30, 2018, Mr. Sherrell was eventually transported to Sanford Health Fargo on August 31, 2018. Upon completion of evaluation by Sanford Health, and upon release from Sanford Health Fargo, discharge instructions for Mr. Sherrell were provided. Those discharge instructions provide the following direction – Should seek immediate medical attention if exhibiting any of the following: Confusion, coma, agitation (becoming anxious or irritable), fever (temperature higher than 100.4 degrees F / 38 degrees C), vomiting, severe headache, signs of stroke (paralysis/numbness on one side of the body, drooping on one side of the face, difficulty talking), worsening weakness, difficulty standing, paralysis, loss of control of the bladder or bowels or difficulty swallowing. Upon return to the Beltrami County jail, Mr. Sherrell appeared to exhibit worsening of some of those symptoms listed above while in custody on September 1, and September 2, 2018. There is no documentation available to indicate the facility sought additional medical care as directed. Additionally, although MEND medical has a policy that would meet the rule requirement, I was not able to find a corresponding policy in the Beltrami County Jail policy manual. Although MEND has the policy in place, Beltrami County should also have a policy in place that governs Beltrami County staff. The lack of policy and procedures related to this rule provision, and the refusal by Jail Administration to send Mr. Sherrell to the hospital for evaluation as initially directed on August 30, 2018, and the lack of action to seek additional medical attention upon the return of Mr. Sherrell to the Beltrami County jail upon worsening of symptoms, the DOC finds the facility is in violation of the rule listed above.
- Corrective Action: Immediately upon receipt of this letter, facility administration shall develop policy and procedure related to the above noted rule provision. Ensure policy meets all requirements set forth in the rules. Policy, procedures, and documentation of training for all staff must be submitted to, and approved by, the DOC no later than July 1, 2020.
Perry said she was glad she listened to her son when he told her on a phone call from jail to “get a lawyer and have them look at the video cameras because they [were] mistreating” him. She lawyered-up quickly and her legal team was able to get the numerous jail videos proving contradictions in the written reports from the jailers.
The calls for Beltrami County Jail to be shut down continue and the damning findings in this re-review are an uncommon, yet needed step towards accountability and is a step closer for Perry and her family to receiving justice for Hardel.