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FBI to investigate 2018 death of Beltrami County Jail inmate

Hardel Sherrell's mother has continued to push for her son's death to be reviewed.

The FBI will be investigating the 2018 death of Hardel Sherrell, who was in custody at the Beltrami County Jail when he died.

The 27-year-old Apple Valley man, who was a father to three girls, died on Sept. 2, 2018. Since his death, Del Shea Perry has sought justice for her son, filing a wrongful-death lawsuit, organizing rallies and pressing for further investigation. 

“Mr. Sherrell’s mother Del Shea Perry rightly pushed to have the circumstances of her son’s death in the Beltrami County Jail fully reviewed. Now, because of Ms. Perry’s perseverance, we are closer to achieving a more complete understanding of what happened," Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a statement to BMTN Friday. 

He has called for a criminal investigation into Sherrell's death. And the FBI will be investigating, DOC Communications Director Nicholas Kimball confirmed to BMTN.

"Based on recently uncovered information, we have coordinated with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to identify an independent law enforcement agency to explore possible criminal charges related to the circumstances of Mr. Sherrell’s death," Schnell said. "I have also directed an analysis of all Department of Corrections reviews of deaths in Minnesota jails over the past five years."

The recently uncovered information was two letters from a healthcare professional that alleged jail staffers neglected Sherrell, the Star Tribune reported last week, noting the letters had been wrongly filed so they were overlooked.

"Our recent re-review of Hardel Sherrell's death uncovered longstanding and problematic processes that led to a failure to uncover the truth about what occurred during Mr. Sherrell’s nine-day incarceration," Schnell said.

The DOC had initially investigated the jail but was only provided documents for the 12-hour period leading up to Sherrell's death. After a re-review of the case, which began in December 2019, the DOC found "regular and gross violation of Minnesota Jail standards," according to a letter it sent to Beltrami County Sheriff Ernie Beitel in May, which was published by KARE 11.

"The deterioration of Mr. Sherrell’s condition over his nine-day term of incarceration in the Beltrami County jail is notable and disturbing," the letter said.

Sherrell's death

According to a federal lawsuit Perry filed in 2019, Sherrell was transferred from Dakota County Jail to the Beltrami County Jail on Aug. 24, 2018. In the days that followed, he complained to jail staff of chest pains, headaches, high blood pressure and paralysis, but they accused him of faking his symptoms.

On Sept. 2, 2018, he suffocated and died on the floor of his jail cell, the lawsuit states. Authorities said he had pneumonia when he died, but the lawsuit says he died of a rare, treatable neurological condition that causes paralysis, and when left untreated, can lead to respiratory arrest.

The lawsuit, which is filed against Beltrami County, MEnD Correctional Care and Sanford Health, among others, claims medical malpractice, wrongful death and constitutional rights violations, saying they did not provide the medical care Sherrell needed to stay alive.

Perry held a rally in Sartell on Wednesday, according to social media posts, where she demanded the state end its contract with MEnD Correctional Care, which provides healthcare to the county jail system.

Here is the DOC Commissioner Schnell's full statement: 

“Mr. Sherrell’s mother Del Shea Perry rightly pushed to have the circumstances of her son’s death in the Beltrami County Jail fully reviewed. Now, because of Ms. Perry’s perseverance, we are closer to achieving a more complete understanding of what happened.

“It shouldn’t take a mother’s determination for the truth to come to light. Minnesota law gives DOC oversight responsibility for county jails. Our recent re-review of Hardel Sherell's death uncovered longstanding and problematic processes that led to a failure to uncover the truth about what occurred during Mr. Sherrell’s nine day incarceration.

“People temporarily detained in county jails deserve and have a Constitutional right to have their health and safety prioritized and protected while they are in custody. I have directed the DOC’s Jail Inspection and Enforcement Unit to redouble its efforts to ensure that conditions of confinement meet the legal, Constitutional, and moral obligations of a civil society.

“Additionally, based on recently uncovered information, we have coordinated with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to identify an independent law enforcement agency to explore possible criminal charges related to the circumstances of Mr. Sherrell’s death. I have also directed an analysis of all Department of Corrections reviews of deaths in Minnesota jails over the past five years.

“The DOC is committed to the truth. We will be transparent. We will be thorough. And we will work to earn Minnesotans' trust that we are doing it right.”

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