In a surveillance video, David Stojcevski, 32, is seen lying naked on the floor of his cell, dying. He is more than halfway done with a 30-day jail sentence. He was brought in over a traffic violation.
Now, Stojcevski's family is suing the Macomb County, Michigan, jail over his death. Stocjcevski was denied proper medical care during his time in jail, the suit says. His rapid physical deterioration and death were captured on video.
The allegations emerge when a national spotlight is shining on in-custody deaths following the recent deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Sandra Bland in Texas. The jail in question has faced allegations of mistreating prisons before.
In the lawsuit, Stojcevski's brother Vladimir accuses the jail of ignoring David's repeated requests for medication. According to the complaint, David was brought to the jail June 11 for failing to appear on a careless driving charge and sentenced to 30 days in prison after he refused to pay a $772 fine. David reportedly told intake officers that he had been prescribed methadone, Xanax, and other medications before the arrest, and that he was at risk of withdrawal.
He was held in a book cell until the following day, and was then moved to another cell, where he stayed from June 12 to June 17. He was eventually placed in a mental health unit. In the following days, Stojcevksi's medical troubles were allegedly ignored by officials. From the complaint (emphasis ours):
- On June 21, 2014, David specifically asked Defendant BROCK if he would be receiving the medication within the jail, Defendant BROCK informed David that the "medication has not been ordered at this time."
- As Defendants' own records and videos demonstrate, Defendants watched David as his mental and medical health deteriorated so dramatically during the final ten days of his life in Defendants' jail, that David lost at least 50 pounds of his 195 pound weight during the sixteen (16) days of his incarceration…
A representative from the Macomb County Sheriff's Office said the office can't offer comment on ongoing litigation. According to WDIV's Kevin Dietz, the defendant's corporate counsel says the Stojcevski family's case has no legal merit.
As it happens, Stojcevski's brother Vladimir was also held for several days on similar charges. He, too, was brought in on June 11 for failing to appear on a driving with a suspended license charge, and also sentenced to 30 days in jail after refusing to pay a fine. He was held in a detoxification unit, and he said the conditions were awful there, too. From the complaint:
- From on or about June 11, 2014 through June 15, 2014 Vladimir had seizures accompanied by vomiting spells and incontinence
- Notwithstanding Vladimir's numerous requests to be allowed to clean himself, and to examine his lower extremity for injury or disease, various Defendant CCS employees and Macomb County jail personnel refused to allow Vladimir to properly wash his lower extremity and behind…
Unlike his brother, Vladimir was released to a hospital's care on June 23.
The news channel WDIV ran an investigative segment on David Stojcevski's case, which includes horrifying video showing his deteriorating health and death.
WDIV's Dietz reported, "this video is very difficult to watch.The man on this video dies and he dies in a high observation unit, which is the cells that are most closely watched here at the Macomb County Jail… 32-year-old David Stojcevski will die, and his family wants you to witness it. So it never happens again."
The video shows a naked Stojcevski—inmates like him are reportedly not clothed, for their own safety—hiding under the bed to escape the cell's bright lights, convulsing, and rapidly losing weight before his death.
Macomb County Jail has a record. The Detroit Free Press reports that inmates are suing the jail for $10 million across two incidents. One concerns the death of Ryan Hagerman, who was killed by his cellmate, Mark Cowans, in 2014. The other is filed by Mark Cowans and four others, who say they were treated poorly by officers. From the Detroit Free Press:
The lawsuit names the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and a deputy, who specifically is accused of threatening, harassing and making fun of inmates in the mental health ward; threatening physical violence and tampering with their food, and turning on the cell speakers and repeatedly telling inmates he “is the one stealing their thoughts.”
According to Cowans' handwritten complaint, inmates on high observation are held in rooms where bright lights are on constantly, and that inmates in mental health units “are strapped in the restraint chair with little to no effort by sergeants to de-escalate/resolve the incident beforehand," reports the Macomb Daily.
On an obituary page set up for Stojcevski, user Vladi left a note addressed to his brother, and another calling for justice.
He wrote, "ITS TIME SOMEONE STANDS UP AND IS THE VOICE BEHIND THIS AND YOU KNOW I WILL NOTTT STOP UNTIL WE GET TO THE F'N VERY BOTTOM OF IT, OR TO THE VERY TOP OF IT. SHAME ON YOU ANIMALS!!!"
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.