Cobb district attorney asks feds to investigate inmate deaths

May 13, 2020 Marietta - Portrait of Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes at her office in Cobb County Superior Court building in Marietta on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes now finds herself in the national spotlight, leading the prosecution of Greg and Travis McMichael in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.
May 13, 2020 Marietta - Portrait of Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes at her office in Cobb County Superior Court building in Marietta on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes now finds herself in the national spotlight, leading the prosecution of Greg and Travis McMichael in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Credit: Hyosub Shin, Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin, Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes has asked federal prosecutors to launch an independent probe into inmate deaths at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

Holmes said Wednesday that she made her request to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and Attorney General Chris Carr to name an appointee or office to work with federal prosecutors on the investigation.

Holmes was asked last month by the family of Kevil Wingo, an inmate who died in September 2019, to launch a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. Wingo, 36, died from complications of a perforated gastric ulcer, an autopsy concluded.

His family has filed a lawsuit against WellStar Health System, six nurses and three Cobb County Sheriff’s Office deputies alleging his constitutional rights were violated by the deputies and medical staff who did not treat him while he was in medical distress.

The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Aug. 27, the agency asked the GBI to review its investigation into Wingo’s death. GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said that review is ongoing.

Timothy Gardner, the attorney representing Wingo’s family, said his office provided the DA information on jail deaths.

“District Attorney Holmes' request is a strong move in the right direction on the road to justice if it is accepted by the U.S. Attorney and responsibly investigated by the attorney general’s office appointee,” Gardner said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Attorney’s office and whomever the attorney general appoints to lead the investigation into Mr. Wingo’s death.”

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Holmes did not provide an explanation in her written statement announcing her request. Bob Page, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the office has received Holmes' request, but will not comment.

“As I have previously stated, I am committed to ensuring that matters of public safety and the concerns of our citizens be addressed by our office or referred to the appropriate agency without favor or fear,” Holmes said in a prepared statement.

Holmes, who is facing a re-election battle, is leading the prosecution of three men charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man who was shot Feb. 23 while jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick. Three white men have been charged with murder in the shooting: father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.

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Wingo is one of several detainees who have died in-custody at the Cobb Detention Center since December 2018: Reginald Wilson, Jessie Myles, Bradley Emory, William Kocour, Steven Davis, Christopher Hart, Stephanie Nicole White and an unnamed woman whose death remains under investigation.

The deaths have sparked criticism from residents and families, local activists and civil rights organizations, which are calling on Sheriff Neil Warren to address their concerns about medical care for inmates and jail staffing levels.

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