HANOVER TWP. — An autopsy determined that a Berwick man who was hospitalized following an incident at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility three months ago died of natural causes, officials with the county Coroner’s Office confirmed Monday.
That determination comes despite concerns raised by family members that Shaheen Mackey — who appeared to be severely bruised and swollen in photos taken by relatives during his final hours — had been the victim of police brutality during his brief incarceration at the prison in Wilkes-Barre.
Mackey, 41, died at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital on June 8, two days after he was brought to the correctional facility on a warrant related to a protection from abuse petition.
An investigation into Mackey’s death is not yet complete, District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Monday, and will be released when it is.
Wilkes-Barre attorney Theron Solomon, a member of the Dyller Law Firm who is representing members of Mackey’s family, said Monday neither he nor relatives had been informed of the autopsy’s outcome prior to speaking with the Times Leader.
Court records showed Mackey had two restraining orders against him filed by two women, alleging stalking and threats of violence.
In a video uploaded to social media on June 4, Mackey discussed his diagnosis of having transient altered mental status. Displaying a medical document, Mackey stated he was diagnosed having homicidal tendencies and violent outbursts.
“I have an excuse to murder (expletives) now. It’s on record,” Mackey is heard saying in the clip. “Does this mean if I kill you, they’re going to give me a pass?”
Two days later, Mackey was jailed at the county correctional facility by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department on a warrant charging him with an alleged violation of a PFA order in Luzerne County.
About five hours after arriving at facility, Mackey “required medical attention” while being restrained, county officials said in a news release issued June 11.
Corrections officers responded to Mackey’s cell block at about 6 p.m. on June 6, after he reportedly was “behaving aggressively” and officers “were forced to restrain Mr. Mackey” in order to defuse the situation, the county’s June 11 news release said.
It failed to describe what type of force was used to restrain Mackey.
Facility staff administered CPR to Mackey and called for an ambulance, and was transported to General Hospital where he died on June 8.
He was no longer an inmate at the time of death, as a judge had lifted bail in the case while he was hospitalized.
Video recordings and witness statements were forwarded to the DA’s office, Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri said following Mackey’s death.
An autopsy was performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross, who recently determined Mackey died of natural causes.
County Coroner William Lisman listed Mackey’s death as natural causes last Wednesday. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the coroner’s office is only permitted to release the cause and manner of death.
Two days after Mackey’s death, his daughter, Tatiyanne “Tati” Mackey, and a friend, Star Ward, told the Times Leader that hospital staff advised them prison officials reported Mackey suffered a seizure.
But Tati and Ward also said they saw Mackey lying in a hospital bed with bruises on his face, legs, arms and pelvic area and were told he was suffering from internal bleeding.
“We get there, his body is bruised — pelvic area, arms, legs, his body is filling up with blisters. Fluid was coming out of his eyes,” Ward said during an interview in June. “To be honest, he had bruises everywhere. He was turning yellow from the fluid. He had internal bleeding in his stomach.”
“They had the handcuffs on him so tight that the skin was split,” Tati added during the June interview. “My dad’s beard was filled with blood, his nose had blood in it.”
Theron raised concerns Monday about the coroner’s ruling, as relayed to him by a reporter.
“I honestly don’t know how they could say a man died of natural causes when a man was in the condition he was in,” Theron said.
“The truth is in the video,” Theron added, referring to prison surveillance footage sent to the DA.
• Investigation underway after Luzerne County inmate hospitalized, dies, June 10, 2018.
• Luzerne County sheds new light on Mackey case, June 12, 2018.
• Numbers highlight use of restraints at Luzerne County prison, June 12, 2018.
• Inmate: ‘I have homicidal outbursts,’ June 13, 2018.