Video shows Michael Sabbie begging for water and air before he dies in jail

Michael Sabbie, 35, was a father on four who’s civil and human rights were violated as he pleaded for air and water. He died in Bi State Jail in Texarkana, Texas in July 2015. The father of four was placed in custody on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge to which he had pleaded not guilty.

On July 22, three days after he was placed in jail he went to court and returned around 4 p.m. He was later found lifeless in his cell. He complained to the guards he had pneumonia and he needed to catch his breath. So he propped up against the walls to regroup. A guard approached him and threw him to the ground.

Footage recorded on a handheld camera shows five officers rush to hold him down. While being ordered to put his hands behind his back, Sabbie repeatedly pleaded: “I can’t breathe.”

In their report, prison guards said Sabbie was noncompliant when he was ordered to his cell so they wrestled him to the ground, pepper-sprayed and showered him. He was pepper sprayed, searching for air; he regained his footing, and with his face slammed against a wall, he was in distress and helpless. They ignored him when he told them he couldn’t breathe. He begged for compassion, repeating, “Please, I can’t breathe. I have pneumonia.”

He was hosed down with water while fully dressed, then he fainted in the shower. Exasperated, Sabbie was ordered by the guard to stay “up” or be sprayed again.



He begged: “Please! I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Please.”

Once on the floor, a guard is heard narrating for the camera: “The offender is perfectly sit down. He sit [sic] down. He’s on the floor. Y’all help him up to his feet.” Then they drag him to his cell and slide him under the bunk before locking the door. Sabbie was found dead the following day at around 6 a.m. 

In his autopsy report, the medical examiner listed the cause of death as “natural” due to health problems.

The Department of Justice has decided not to pursue charges against the officers.

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