He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for a CT scan and medically cleared, but he was diagnosed with a potassium deficiency, attorney Michael Harper said Thursday.
Following his release from the hospital, Barnett was returned to the Fulton County Jail, where deputies were instructed to monitor his potassium levels, his head injuries and his mental health, according to the lawsuit. He died the following day.
Barnett’s official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to alcohol abuse and low potassium, Harper said. But his family maintains Barnett didn’t have a drinking problem or any history of heart issues, and the lawsuit accuses Fulton’s jail staff of failing to provide medical treatment that could have prevented his death.
According to the suit, Barnett was returned to his cell and received no medical or psychological treatment following his release from the hospital. In addition, the lawsuit claims the Fulton County Jail was understaffed on the day he died.
“He goes back to jail, goes back on suicide watch and received no medical treatment at all,” Harper said. “A day later, he’s found dead in his cell.”
More than a year after Barnett’s death, Harper said the man’s family still hasn’t received a copy of the in-custody death investigation from the sheriff’s office, despite several attempts to get it.
“The jail has not released any official information about his death at all,” Harper said. “We’ve done several open records requests, but they keep saying it’s still under investigation.”
Barnett’s family is seeking a jury trial and hopes to win money for the 38-year-old’s life, as well as funeral expenses and attorney’s fees.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office declined to discuss the pending litigation, and a spokesperson for the county government did not return requests for comment.
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