Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will review the 2018 death of a Beltrami County jail inmate.
Hardel Sherrell, 27, had been in the county jail nine days when he died. After becoming ill with numbness and pain in his chest and lower limbs, he was placed under the care of Dr. Todd Leonard and the staff of Mend Correctional Care, which provided contracted medical services to the jail.
An investigation by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice found a Mend employee recommended Sherrell be transferred to a hospital room but the jail administrator initially vetoed the move because employees thought Sherrell was faking his symptoms.
After another Mend employee intervened, Sherrell was evaluated at a hospital, where a doctor said the causes of Sherrell's symptoms were unclear but that he should get medical attention if they worsened. Although Sherrell later became incontinent and developed slurred speech and facial drooping, he was never sent back to the hospital.
The state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension completed its investigation of Sherrell's death in August and referred the matter to Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson for consideration of criminal charges. Hanson then requested Ellison assist in reviewing the case.
"Sherrell's life was important and had value," Ellison said in a news release issued Saturday. "We're committed to assisting the Beltrami County Attorney and will follow justice wherever it leads. To Hardel's mother and loved ones: you have my deepest condolences, and you can count on our very best effort."
Del Shea Perry, Sherrell's mother, began advocating for the health and safety of incarcerated people after her son's death. In 2021, the Legislature passed a law in Sherrell's name that set new standards for mental health, suicide prevention and other health practices.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the man's family in federal court is pending.
Leonard is the owner and president of Mend and at the time of Sherrell's death was the chief medical officer for the company. Last year, the medical board suspended his license for "a careless disregard for the health, welfare and safety of his patient" related to Sherrell's death.
A number of Minnesota counties have cut ties with Sartell-based Mend Correctional Care, citing concerns over unprovided services and potential legal liability after the suspension of Leonard's medical license. Late last year, Leonard filed for bankruptcy on behalf of the company.