Image via WFVF-TV/Sanders Family
Tory Sanders collapsed during a confrontation with officers in the Mississippi County jail, authorities say.
The mother of Tory Sanders blasted Attorney General Josh Hawley's decision not to file murder charges against a rural Missouri sheriff.
Quinta Sanders says someone needs to be held accountable for the death of her 28-year-old son, who sought help from authorities in Mississippi County after getting lost and running out of gas in the Bootheel
— only to die after being tased repeatedly in a jail cell later that day.
"I hate that police continue to get away with murder," Quinta Sanders told the Riverfront Times
in a phone interview from Nashville. "That's the sad part. They left the word 'accountability' out."
Hawley announced Wednesday
that his investigation found there was not enough evidence to charge Mississippi County Sheriff Cory Hutcheson or anyone else with murder in Sanders' death. The attorney general had previously filed multiple criminal charges against the embattled sheriff
in unrelated cases.
Sanders, who suffered from depression, was apparently trying to drive from Nashville to visit relatives in Memphis in May 2017 when he veered off course and became stranded in southeast Missouri. He eventually landed in the Mississippi County Detention Center on a protective hold when authorities determined he was undergoing a mental health episode.
He had voluntarily told authorities he had a warrant for his arrest back in Tennessee. But when the Missouri authorities ran a check at the jail and told him it wasn't enough to hold him on, he refused to leave, according to Hawley's account. Sanders was never arrested or charged with a crime in Missouri.
Jailers and police quarreled with Sanders off-and-on through the day. In between, he spoke to his mother by phone. In one of those conversations, he told her that deputies were "electrocuting" him, apparently a reference to being stunned with a Taser.
"They're trying to kill me," he said, according to his mother.
Hawley now says medical examiners believe he was in the early stages of "excited delirium," a condition that led him to become combative and fight with law enforcement agents at the jail until his heart gave out. During a final showdown, Hutcheson led a team of at least six into Sanders' cell and swarmed him, according to Hawley. Sanders went into cardiac arrest shortly thereafter and died.
Three medical examiners, including one requested by Sanders' family, agreed on the diagnosis. Quinta Sanders says she doesn't believe it, echoing a large number of skeptics who see "excited delirium" as a term made up to explain away police abuse.
The diagnosis is often cited in police-custody deaths of people who are mentally ill or on drugs. It is controversial in part because it is not recognized as an actual condition by the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association or World Health Organization.
Quinta Sanders is equally skeptical of Hawley's announcement Wednesday that he is planning a "broader criminal and civil review" of practices at the jail, even though he wasn't charging Hutcheson with murder.
She says the attorney general is "talking out of both sides of his mouth," essentially giving the jail a pass on her son's death while simultaneously admitting there are serious problems there.
"If it's not broken, don't fix it — but they know darn well it's broken," she says.
Even without the murder charge, Sheriff Hutcheson is still fighting a multi-front legal battle. He is facing a raft of state and federal-level charges from incidents that include the alleged robbery of a 77-year-old hairdresser and the illegal monitoring of cell phones belonging to state troopers, the former sheriff and a sitting judge.
He is also fighting civil lawsuits
related to the ghastly stillbirth of an inmate's baby and the overdose death of a young mother in her jail cell as staff allegedly mocked her.
He was indicted last week
on eleven federal identity theft charges for the alleged cell phone monitoring.
Hutcheson has denied all wrongdoing.
Quinta Sanders says she and her family have not given up. "We will continue and continue," she says. "Missouri has not heard the last of us."
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at email@example.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.