Minnesota AG to help review 2018 death of county inmate

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said his office will review the death of a man who collapsed after complaining of health problems at the Beltrami County Jail in 2018.

Hardel Sherrell, 27, of Apple Valley, was transferred to the jail in August 2018 in good health to face weapons possession charges, but his condition deteriorated over several days until he collapsed after complaining of several health issues, including chest pains and paralysis, KARE-TV previously reported.

Sherrell died at the jail in September 2018.

His mother, Del Shea Perry, asked the state to investigate and filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2019. She alleged in the lawsuit that jail and medical staff did not take Sherrell seriously when he asked them for help. Sherrell suffered from a neurological disorder that, left untreated, can result in respiratory arrest, and he died of suffocation on the jail floor, the lawsuit alleged.

Beltrami County Sheriff Jason Riggs did not immediately respond to a request Monday for comment on Ellison’s announcement.

In a filing in response to the lawsuit, the county denied the allegations, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension completed its investigation of Sherrell’s death in August 2022 and referred the case to Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson to consider possible criminal charges.

Hanson has asked Ellison’s office to review the case, the attorney general said in a news release Friday.

“Hardel Sherrell’s life was important and had value. We’re committed to assisting the Beltrami County Attorney and will follow justice wherever it leads,” Ellison said in a statement. “To Hardel’s mother and loved ones: you have my deepest condolences, and you can count on our very best effort.”

Ellison said it would take some time to review the “voluminous file” in the case.

After an initial inquiry found no wrongdoing by the jail staff, the Department of Corrections opened a new investigation in 2020 in response to protests led by Perry. That investigation found “regular and gross violation of Minnesota jail standards.”

In 2021, the Minnesota Legislature passed the “Hardel Sherrell Act,” which gave the DOC more authority to sanction jails for poor inmate care.

Last January, the state medical board stripped the license of the jail’s medical director at the time, Todd Leonard, saying Sherrell’s death was a tragedy that “should never have occurred. And it must never be allowed to happen again.”

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