CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The family of a mentally ill man who died while in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center on Thursday filed a Notice of Intent to File Suit against the behavioral health facility in which he was housed before being arrested, as well as the jail healthcare provider.

Jamal Sutherland died in January after being repeatedly tased and pepper-sprayed by detention center deputies when he refused to leave his jail cell for a bond hearing.


Now, Sutherland’s family is filing a wrongful death suit against parties involved in his death, alleging medical negligence.

According to the filing, Sutherland’s “psychosis and related symptoms worsened while under the care of Palmetto, including persisting paranoid behaviors, aggression, hallucinations, and grandiose delusions, such that it was (or with the exercise of any reasonable degree of care should have been) clear to Palmetto’s medical personnel that Mr. Sutherland was experiencing an ongoing and severe mental health crisis that needed proper care, treatment and attention.” Additionally, when Sutherland became involved in a fight, Palmetto contacted police and “did not seek to transfer Mr. Sutherland to another hospital or psychiatric treatment facility more properly qualified or staffed to treat Mr. Sutherland’s decompensating mental health or mental health crisis.”

The filing surmises that had Palmetto “provided proper psychiatric treatment to Mr. Sutherland or had him
transferred to another psychiatric treatment facility or hospital for proper treatment instead of calling the Police Department and sending him to the Detention Center, Mr. Sutherland’s death following a forced cell extraction on January 5, 2021 could have been avoided entirely.”

Further, the filing states that the healthcare providers at the detention center, employed by Wellpath, did perform a proper psychiatric evaluation on Sutherland. Likewise, the person assigned to observe his cell extraction “did not intervene with an appropriate level of urgency or diligence to assess and treat Mr. Sutherland when he became unresponsive.”

The filing concludes that “if Wellpath had provided medical personnel with the proper education, training and qualifications to safely assist the Detention Center’s deputies with Mr. Sutherland’s forced cell extraction and had that personnel met the applicable standard of care, Mr. Sutherland’s death on January 5, 2021 could have been prevented.”