Cobb District Attorney Joyette Holmes announced Wednesday she has asked the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia to investigate the death of inmates at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.
Kevil Wingo, 36, died at the detention center Sept. 29, 2019, from a perforated ulcer. His family recently filed a civil lawsuit — in which they allege officers and nurses at the detention center let him die by ignoring his cries for help in the hours before his death — and have been pressing for such an investigation for weeks.
The detention center is operated by the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, which has come under fire in the past year after the death of Wingo and several other inmates.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday. The U.S. Attorney’s office acknowledged receipt of Holmes’ request but declined to comment.
In her announcement Wednesday, Holmes also requested Georgia’s attorney general to “designate/appoint an attorney or office ... to coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s independent investigation.”
In August, the family’s attorney, Timothy Gardner, asked Holmes to open an investigation after sending her audio and video recordings from the detention center which, he said, corroborated the claims in the recently filed lawsuit.
Several days later, he organized a news conference in the detention center’s parking lot to again demand she open an investigation.
Wingo “consistently asked for help and was denied,” his daughter, Kieara Wingo, said at the conference. “So we want everybody involved to be charged.”
It was attended by representatives from the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cobb NAACP as well as state Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, the head of the county’s legislative delegation.
At the time, the district attorney said she could not impanel a special grand jury because of the pandemic-related judicial emergency but pledged to take the appropriate action once the Georgia Supreme Court allowed it.
In an emailed statement, Gardner said it was “too early to either condemn or congratulate DA Holmes for her recusal and recommendation that another agency independently investigate Mr. Kevil Wingo’s death.”
Nevertheless, he said it was “very encouraging that she has requested the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate not only the criminal violation of Mr. Kevil Wingo’s constitutional right to receive adequate medical care, but also the constitutional violations committed against the many other detainees that died at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center under Sheriff Neil Warren.”
Holmes, a Republican, is seeking reelection this November. Last week, she was attacked by her Democratic opponent, assistant solicitor general Flynn Broady, for not opening an investigation.
“We know right now that our current district attorney has not decided to have an investigation done at the jail to see what the problem is. She is not being accountable to us as citizens,” Broady said. “She is not going to ask, she is not going to hold that current sheriff accountable. Whether it’s party politics, partisanship or whatever you want to call it, it is just wrong.”