An Apple Valley man in custody at the Beltrami County jail pleaded for help for his sudden health problems but was not taken seriously and died Sunday, said the man’s friends and family members.
Hardel H. Sherrell, 27, was in good health before he was admitted into the jail in late August, said his uncle, activist Trahern Crews.
“I know before he went in he was playing basketball and he was dunking on people and everything,” Crews said Tuesday. “We just want to know the actual truth of what happened. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody else again.”
Sherrell “collapsed and become unresponsive” shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday, according to the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the sheriff’s news release, a corrections officer and a medical technician were present at the time. Jail staff used CPR and an automated external defibrillator on Sherrell.
First responders and an ambulance crew also were unable to revive Sherrell. Authorities said he died of “an unknown medical condition.”
His death is being investigated by Bemidji police and the Beltrami County Coroner’s Office, with help from the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office.
The Sheriff’s Office did not release any other information about Sherrell’s death.
Sherrell’s mother, Del Shea Perry, and his girlfriend, Cassandra Gardner, said he had been experiencing “excruciating” back and leg pain, and had difficulty walking and swallowing for several days leading up to his death. They allege that Sherrell asked the jail staff and nurse for help and was accused of lying about his symptoms, which left him using a wheelchair and diapers at one point.
They believe authorities failed to help Sherrell until it was too late.
Sherrell had spent time in the Dakota County jail for a case involving an altercation with an ex-girlfriend when he was transferred about Aug. 24 to Beltrami County for an unrelated allegation of illegal gun possession, said Perry, Gardner and Sherrell’s best friend, Nicholas Griffith.
Gardner said she spoke with Sherrell on Aug. 25, and he said he was feeling well.
But in the following days, she said, he reported having trouble walking and swallowing food and water. One night, he told Gardner, he got up to use the bathroom and fell and soiled himself. “Basically, he said he felt like he was paralyzed,” Gardner said.
Jail staff gave Sherrell a wheelchair and adult diapers to use, she said.
The sudden turn in health was a shock to those who knew Sherrell, a father to three girls ages 6, 4 and 2. Perry and Gardner believe Sherrell could have been experiencing an allergic reaction to medication he told Gardner he’d received in jail.
Sherrell was taken out of the jail late last week for medical evaluation, and told Gardner in a phone call on Aug. 31 that he was diagnosed with sciatic nerve damage.
Perry said that when she called the jail after her son’s death, staff confirmed he had been in a medical ward, but declined to provide detailed information, citing federal health privacy laws.
In 2016, Tony Edward May, 26, of Red Lake, also died while in custody at the jail.
Friends and family said they’ll remember Sherrell as a devoted father who was quick to help his friends.
“[The Sheriff’s Office] should have known the status of his health because they checked him out and sent him out” to a doctor, Griffith said. “To even think about him or picture him in [adult diapers], in a wheelchair — my heart’s broken. They let him down. I know he’s in jail, but he’s still a person.”