A shocking video has revealed how a father-of-four begged for water and pleaded with prison guards that he couldn’t breathe as they wrestled, gassed and showered him hours before he died in his cell.
Michael Sabbie, 35, had been in the Bi State Jail in Texarkana, a private prison on the border between Texas and Arkansas, for three days when he died in July last year.
The father-of-four was placed in custody on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge to which he had pleaded not guilty.
In the hours before his death, he was wrestled to the ground by guards who claimed he was resisting orders by not going back to his cell when told, The Huffington Post reported.
Sabbie had been in court on July 22, 2015, when he returned to the jail at around 4pm. On his way back to his cell, he stopped to catch his breath.
Surveillance footage from inside the prison shows him resting by the wall, propping himself up as other inmates made their way back to their cells.
Sabbie was approached by a guard who, after exchanging some words, threw him the ground.
Further footage taken on a hand held camera shows five more officers rush to hold him down. While being ordered to put his hands behind his back, Sabbie repeatedly pleaded: ‘I can’t breathe.’
One of the officers then pepper-sprayed his face, leaving him coughing and spluttering. Once on his feet and slammed with his face against a wall, he begged: ‘Please, I can’t breathe. I have pneumonia’.
The 35-year-old rested against a wall in the prison as he made his way back to his cell after finding himself short of breath (left). A prison guard threw him to the ground after less than a minute of conversation (right)
Once on the ground, the man was held down by five police guards. He repeatedly told them he could not breathe
He was marched into medical and then hosed down with water while still wearing his clothes. Sabbie, whose names guards did not know as they manhandled him, then fainted in the shower.
He had an exasperated exchange with an officer ordering him to ‘stay up or be administered with a chemical agent’ seconds earlier.
In response, he begged: ‘Please! I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Please.’
Once on the floor, a guard was heard dictating for the camera: ‘The offender is perfectly sit down. He sit down. He’s on the floor. Y’all help him up to his feet’.
The guards are then seen dragging him to his cell where they ‘slide him under the bunk’ before locking the door. Sabbie was found dead the following day at around 6am.
His death was ruled as ‘natural’ by a medical examiner who noted his obesity and pre-existing health problems.
The man’s family has released the video after presenting it to The Department of Justice earlier this year.
The Department has decided not to pursue charges against any of the officers involved despite their protestations due to lack of evidence.