A 22-year-old man serving a short jail stint for pot possession died after corrections staff neglected his intense dairy allergy and seemingly ignored his frantic pleas for medical assistance, according to videos obtained by a local news channel.
Michael Saffioti was sentenced to jail time for skipping a court appearance relating to a marijuana possession charge. According to Saffioti’s mother, his extreme allergies gave him constant anxiety, and smoking pot helped calm his nerves.
Video footage from the Snohomish County Jail in Washington seems to show Saffioti questioning a prison guard about the contents of his breakfast on the morning of July 3, 2012.
“We know that he asked questions and made inquiries and he was assured the oatmeal in the food was safe for eating,” said Cheryl Snow, an attorney for the Saffioti family, in a statement to KIRO-TV 7.
After nibbling the breakfast, Saffioti immediately began using his inhaler and asked to see a nurse. But the guards on duty, believing there was nothing wrong with him, sent Saffioti back to his cell.
From within his cell, Saffioti pressed the call button several times. The video footage even shows him jumping up and down in front of his cell window, hoping to draw the attention of the guards. They ignored his increasingly frantic calls for help.
Just 35 minutes later, Safffioti was found unconscious in his cell. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Snow said Snohomish staff “absolutely knew” about Saffioti’s allergies ahead of time.
Jail officials initially lied about the existence of video footage of the incident, but reporters and lawyers finally prevailed through the public records request process.
Saffioti’s mother is suing the county for $10 million.
The Huffington Post’s Radley Balko described Saffiotis death as “part drug war, part police indifference and callousness, part police cover-up.”
Marijuana possession — the reason for Saffioti’s incarceration — stopped being a crime in the state of Washington just a few months after he died.
A spokesperson for the jail declined to comment due to pending litigation.