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Hackel defends county, policies in Macomb jail death

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Macomb County officials say they’re being unfairly criticized for a jail inmate’s death.

County Executive Mark Hackel vigorously defended Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and jail staff on Thursday.

His comments came after the release last week of a harrowing videothat showed David Stojcevski’s slow death in the Macomb County jail.

Stojcevski died of drug withdrawal, dehydration and seizures over 16 days in the jail’s mental health unit in 2014. He was serving 30 days for failure to pay driving-related fines.

His family has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit. They claim Stojcevski was denied prescribed medication that could have prevented his death.

The release of jail footage appears to clearly show Stojcevski’s failing physical and mental health — his family says he lost 50 pounds during his time in jail — sparked widespread outrage, and the FBI is now investigating.

But Hackel accused the family’s attorney, Robert Ihrie, of being “irresponsible” by taking the case to the media when it should be tried in court.

Hackel also insisted the video footage shown of Stojcevski didn’t tell the whole story. But he said it caused corrections officers to be unfairly condemned, when they didn’t do anything wrong.

“Trying to give an impression that these officers just don’t care … wow,” Hackel said. “I’ve got to defend that to some very strong extent.”

Hackel also said there was no need to change policies or procedures at the jail, or to discipline any of the employees involved. He noted that on-site medical care is provided by a private contractor, which is also being sued.

“The only change I would see — and I recommended it to the sheriff at this point in time — is the next time something like this comes out, don’t be silent,” Hackel said.

Hackel defended the county’s actions and blasted media coverage of the story at length, but would not address any specific questions about Stojcevski’s case due to the family’s lawsuit.

The FBI is now looking into the case. Wickersham said he welcomed an investigation, and promised full cooperation.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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