US justice dept. asked to investigate PG jail death

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The family of a Reggae artist who died in Prince George's County jail custody after a dispute over bus fare is calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.

"Its my understanding based on the information we've received so far is that he was beaten because he would not change into the jail's uniform," said Billy Ponds, an attorney representing the family of 49-year old Samuel Shields of NW, Washington.

Ponds said he would file a petition with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division Monday.

Shields died June 17 after a "medical distress" episode, according to jail spokesperson Yolanda Evans. Evans said Sheilds had been disorderly, was "separated" from other inmates, and was not handcuffed at the time of the episode.

Sheild's wife, Regina Sheilds said her husband had a number of significant medical issues including congestive heart failure and a previous bout with mental illness. Sheilds was collecting disability.

"It is possible that he could have died from a cardiac arrest," Ponds said. "But the question is, what caused that?"

Sheilds was pepper sprayed and arrested by Metro Transit Police at the Addison Road Metro station June 17 after allegedly skipping bus fare. He was charged with theft and resisting arrest.

He died 10 hours later while still being processed into jail, Evans said.

The Maryland Medical Examiner has not yet determined a cause of death.

Prince George's County police, who are independent from the county's corrections department, are conducting the death investigation.


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