COBB COUNTY, Ga. — It happened in September of last year, but the details of Kevil Wingo’s death were not revealed until the sheriff’s office concluded its investigation this past June.
Wingo, a 36-year-old man, and resident of Atlanta had been arrested for drug possession and booked into the Cobb Detention Center in Marietta, GA.
Wingo was placed in the infirmary for “detoxification monitoring” when he arrived at the jail on Sept 24. He was prescribed medicine to treat nausea after he told jail staff he had used cocaine in the past 72 hours. Three days later, he was put in general population.
Surveillance video from inside the jail does not have audio, however, interviews with sheriff’s employees, medical staff, and fellow inmates paint a picture of how Wingo was ignored the night he died.
According to the interviews, Wingo was heard by staff repeatedly screaming that he could not breathe, while deputies and medical personnel watched him slowly die.
Investigators interviewed multiple inmates who said they witness Wingo vomiting and complaining about an ulcer. All but one of about a dozen inmates interviewed told investigators they believed Wingo was in severe pain and overheard him complaining to deputies about his abdominal issues. Some of them said they even heard Wingo specifically mention his ulcer.
“Within a couple of seconds, he just broke out in a big, big sweat,” said Billy Smith, a fellow inmate. “[Deputies] looking at us, like ‘He’s just detoxing.’ We’re like, ‘No, you need to come get him.”
An inmate named Robert Ward said he didn’t think deputies responded quick enough.
“What happened is the guy was in pain and nobody took him serious. He was laying on the ground crying for help and no one took him seriously,” said Ward.
Wingo can be seen on video just before midnight being transferred to the infirmary. He appears to be hunched over in pain as he is pushed down the hall in a wheelchair.
At the time, Wingo’s vitals showed no red flags, but for more than seven hours after, the father of three repeatedly begged to be sent to the hospital.
Jail surveillance video shows him knocking on his cell door trying to get nurses’ attention and collapsing at least 5 times. Three employees said they heard Wingo complain that “he could not breathe.” Two believed him. One did not. None of them acted to save his life.
“When he yelled at me, yelling in the cell block, he said, ‘I need to go to the hospital, I can’t breathe.’ And, I talked to him for a minute, and I was like, ‘If you’re hollering, you are breathing,’” said Lynn Marshall, a deputy assigned to the infirmary.
A lab technician and a jail secretary were so concerned with Wingo’s condition, they asked a charge nurse, Annaleen Visser, if they could take his vitals. Visser said no.
“He actually fell backward onto the floor and crawled to the window and was asking again begging for help, saying he could not breathe,” said Tiffany Womack, the lab technician in an interview with sheriff investigators.
Visser said she refused to take Wingo’s vitals and prevented other staff from doing so because she believed Wingo was detoxing and only wanted to go to the hospital because he wanted drugs.
“He was loud, he was, I don’t know what he was saying, he was just disruptive,” said Visser in her investigation interview.
After becoming tired of hearing Wingo complain about his pain, Visser then requested that deputies send him to a padded isolation room.
“Hi, do you have a pad open?” Visser asked a deputy on the phone, “I’ve got an idiot playing games trying to get to the hospital. He’s just playing around.”
Wingo collapsed onto the floor when a deputy opened his cell to move him from the infirmary cell to the padded room. It took a deputy 9 minutes to pick him up.
When he is put in the padded room, deputies strip Wingo of his clothes and left him with 2 cups of water.
Jail policy requires staff to look inside isolation rooms every 15 minutes, however, jail video shows the deputy assigned to Wingo’s cell never looks inside.
A short time later, Wingo is found cold to the touch and not breathing. He died at 9:51 a.m.
An internal investigation report did not recommend disciplinary action taken on any employee and concluded that no staff member committed a crime or violated any jail policy.
At the time, Wellstar Health System, based out of Marietta, staffed and operated the infirmary at the detention center. After more than 20 years, it ended its contract this past May. WellPath, LLC is now the current medical provider for the jail.
The Wingo family is slamming the jail, saying a crime was committed and the staff needs to be held accountable.
The family is seeking justice for Wingo with a website, kevilwingo.com, that includes a 45 minute documentary with expert medical witnesses and recorded interviews conducted by sheriff investigators.
Wingo’s family has also filed a complaint against two nurses, Visser and Burton, with the Georgia Board of Nursing.