Written by @kristenshylin_
Activist Shaun King called for justice for a Luzerne County Correctional inmate who died while being restrained by correctional officers during an apparent medical episode.
In an Instagram post, King referred to Shaheen Mackey’s death as an “execution” and “modern-day lynching.”
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I have been asked by the family of Shaheen Mackey to come on board to help them get justice for their father. What you are seeing here is literally one of the single most disturbing things I have ever seen in my life. It's a modern day lynching. The man in that chair is a beloved father, son, and friend named Shaheen Mackey. He called the medics because he was sick and had a seizure. They shackled his arms behind his back. They shackled his legs. They covered his face with a mask, and choked him with it, forcing it over his nose and mouth so that he could not breathe. They then tasered him. And tortured him. He tells them he cannot breathe. He tells them they are killing him. He never harms them in any way. He couldn't if he wanted to. More and more men pile on him. UNTIL HE DIES. This is the Luzerne County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania. EVERYBODY not only failed this man – they murdered him. This is a modern day lynching. Of course, the local DA and jail and police all cleared each other, but the state is going to have to weigh in. I need @governortomwolf to intervene here. I need Pennsylvania Attorney General @joshshapiropa to weigh in here. Don't tell us Black Lives Matter, then go silent when a Black man is lynched on your watch. Please follow @GrassrootsLaw as we try to get justice for this family.
“What you are seeing here is literally one of the single most disturbing things I have ever seen in my life. It’s a modern-day lynching,” he wrote in the caption.
According to The Citizen’s Voice, Mackey’s children told the media Wednesday that they gave consent to release the video to get justice for their father. The video was initially leaked by a Facebook user, identified as Nieem Johnson.
“During the 4 hours he was held (there), Shaheen Mackey had a seizure and called for medical help,” Johnson wrote after posting the video. “At no point did he resist, spit or fight back,” the Facebook post continued. “While his hands was cuffed behind his back in the chair with a spit mask on his face and his feet shackled, the correctional officers shocked him with Tasers and not just held the spit mask on his face but choked him with it. This video is graphic and very disturbing to watch as Shaheen Mackey begs them to stop just before he takes his last breath.”
Although the family reached a $3 million settlement with the county in June, no charges were ever filed against the officers who killed Mackey. In fact, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis cleared all of the officers involved and recently defended her decision.
“Neither the county’s decision to settle the civil action nor the video’s release affect the investigation or decision with respect to criminal charges against the corrections officers in this case,” Salavantis said. “It should be noted that not only did our office expend a substantial amount of time and resources doing a full investigation into the incident; the matter was also reviewed by federal authorities.”
In the 23-minute long video, Mackey, detained in jail for an alleged violation of a protection-from-abuse order, was seen strapped to a restraint chair with a spit mask over his face.
About nine correctional officers surrounded the 41-year-old while he strained and cried for his life. The officers continued to apply pressure on Mackey, assuming that he was high off drugs.
“This mother f—ker. He’s strong,” one officer said. “I don’t know what he’s on. Probably meth. When they get pumped on meth, they get power like this. Just make sure you control that other f—king hand.”
Eight minutes into the video, an officer is seen using a taser on the man, repeatedly.
“It’s not even affecting him,” one officer said. “It’s doing nothing. He don’t even feel it. There’s no point in utilizing it.”
Shortly after, Mackey became unresponsive. A nurse then administered Narcan to revive him from a suspected drug overdose.
The lawsuit filed by the family in December 2019 revealed that Mackey was not under the influence of any substance.
Mackey died at the hospital two days later. According to the autopsy report, Mackey died of “natural causes.” The county’s coroner’s office listed “myocardial insufficiency due to severe coronary artery disease” as his cause of death.
Mackey’s daughter Tatiyanee Mackey questioned the accuracy of the report while speaking to the media Wednesday.
“Really? Come on,” Tatiyanee said. “That’s no natural cause. They let him sit in that chair and take his last breath, and they didn’t care. That’s sick.”
The suit alleged that the officers failed to acknowledge that Mackey was having a seizure instead of resisting.
“Instead of treating the situation as the medical emergency that it was, the correctional officers treated Mr. Mackey’s convulsions with more physical force,” the complaint read.
DA Salavantis, on the other hand, justified the officer’s actions in the incident.
“Whether the episode was caused by the effects of a controlled substance — as initially, but incorrectly, believed by the officers — or by seizure as was later believed, the officers had a responsibility to attempt to restrain Mr. Mackey before he hurt himself or anyone else or before he could be given medical attention in his agitated state.”
Despite the district attorney’s assertions, Mackey’s family vowed Wednesday to continue seeking justice.
“The fight continues,” Tatiyanee said. “The movement will keep going. This is not it.”