The family of a Muscogee County Jail inmate beaten to death by another inmate early Saturday morning has filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Donna Tompkins and three of her deputies.
The lawsuit comes as 19-year-old Jayvon Hackett made his first court appearance for the murder of 39-year-old Eddie Nelson Jr.
The attorney for Nelson’s brother, Jerry Nelson, and his wife, Michele DuShane, tells News 3 the reason that the lawsuit was filed so quickly was to control the narrative in a case that is certain to garner national media attention.
Attorney Craig Jones says this was not a race crime, but it was a failure by the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office to properly handle two mentally ill inmates.
The wrongful death suit against Sheriff Donna Tompkins, Chief Deputy Troy Culepper, Jail commander Larry Mitchell and Capt. Glenda Hall.
The suit claims that Hatchett — who is black — should never have been in a jail cell with Eddie Nelson Jr.
“At this point, all we can say it was so obvious that this guy was a danger that he needed to be isolated from other inmates, particularly other white inmates after having made the racial threats he had made and after having committed the hate crime that he committed,” Jones said.
Hatchett was in jail facing aggravated assault charges for the Aug. 25 stabbing of an AutoZone employee. Police say it was a racially motivated crime in which Hatchett wanted to kill a white male. That came out in Recorder’s Court testimony.
“All I know is that this was in the news; it was viral on social media,” Jones said. “And I find it difficult to believe that everybody in the Sheriff’s Department and everybody at the jail did not know this. Because it’s not every day somebody walks into a business then arbitrarily stabs somebody because of the color of their skin.”
Tompkins declined to comment on the suit, but in a news conference on Tuesday, she addressed the wide-spread publicity.
“I understand the media reported it but that does not necessarily translate into something that law enforcement would pick up,” Tompkins said.
Jones says this was preventable.
“This is a breakdown in the jail administration and it’s a breakdown in the mental health system that’s the issue,” he said. “It’s not black and white, It could have easily gone the other way.”