Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Lawsuit Against Pennsylvania County Over Prisoner’s Death in Restraint Chair Settled for $3 Million

Shaheen L. Mackey, 41, was arrested on a warrant related to a protection-from-abuse petition. During intake at the Columbia County Correctional Facility, he informed medical staff that he suffered a seizure disorder. His medical records noted that he had epilepsy.

Mackey was transferred to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility. Intake staff marked all medical questions on the intake questionnaire “No.”

A few hours later, Mackey had a seizure. Disoriented and confused, he stumbled into the wrong cell during a lockdown. He was eventually discovered in the wrong cell and escorted to his cell by guard Joseph Katra.

Nursing staff arrived at the cell to take Mackey’s vitals. Katra entered the cell to confront him. He did not understand what was going on and was paranoid. When he tried to go to the cell door to meet the nurses, Katra slammed him backward onto the floor.

Mackey began foaming at the mouth and convulsing as he suffered another seizure. Multiple guards entered the cell and piled onto Mackey. Still seizing, he was handcuffed, shackled and placed in a restraint chair.

By then, Mackey was bleeding from the mouth so guards placed a spit mask over his face. They wheeled him, handcuffed behind his back and restrained in the chair, to another location.

There, they tried to force him into a prone position so they could use leather straps to hold him there. Mistaking his convulsions for “resisting,” a guard electrocuted Mackey with two tasers until the batteries were empty. Guards speculated aloud whether Mackey was using various illegal drugs or drug combinations to explain his strength and the lack of effect the Tasers were having and kept yelling “stop resisting.”

Corporal Kristopher Renfer grabbed a Taser from another guard, and said “this mother fucker,” and continued Mackey’s electrocution, which went on for at least another 20 shocks. Most of the incident was video recorded.

The medical staff administered Narcan, an anti-opiate drug, multiple times. Finally, Mackey became unresponsive. Guards delayed performing CPR, but Mackey was eventually transported to a hospital where he died two days later. He had spent a mere five hours at the jail.

Extensive blood tests showed Mackey had not been using any illegal drugs. He was having seizures.

Aided by attorneys Barry Dyller and Theron Solomon of the Dyller Law firm of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Mackey’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the county, numerous jail staff members, and Correct Care Solutions, the jail’s contract health-care provider, now known as Wellpath.

The county settled its part of the lawsuit for $3 million but not the lawsuit against Correct Care Solutions. Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis cleared all jail staff of any wrongdoing in the incident.  Dyller law firm will receive $1.2 million of the settlement for legal fees.

“The DA justifies what is in the video,” said Shaheen Mackey’s eldest daughter Tatiyanee Mackey, 20. “You see the video, but you don’t see the crime that’s being committed? How? I don’t know how, because it’s right there. It’s clear ... Accountability, that’s what we want. Justice.” See Hammonds v. Luzerne Cty., Case No. 3:19-CV-2199, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Pa.). 


As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Hammonds v. Luzerne Cty.