Family had battle for two years for right to see 23-minute footage
Last updated at 10:10 PM on 1st March 2012
The family of a mentally ill man who committed suicide in his prison cell have seen horrific footage for the first time which shows the 26-year-old bleeding to death while guards stand around and watch.
Anthony Lester took his own life after he was mistakenly given razors in a prisoner hygiene pack.
He cut his wrists and jugular vein in a shared cell in Tucson, Arizona.
The Lester family have battled with the state for almost two years to gain access to the footage, filmed by one of the guards Umberto Hernandez who went to Lester’s cell after the alarm was raised in July 2010.
Correction officers can allegedly be seen doing nothing for 23 minutes while the young man bled heavily from his wounds while lying on a top bunk bed.
None of the officers attempted to save his life by staunching the bleeding, said Lester’s family and their lawyer who have seen the tape, according to 12 News.
Instead the guards wandered around the cell while one wondered if the prisoner, who was still alive, had left a ‘suicide note’.
His family filed a claim last January against the state for $3million alleging that the Department of Correction’s (DOC) substandard treatment of patients with mental illness led to the 26-year-old’s death.
Anthony Lester had been diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was in high school and had struggled with his condition, self-harming as a teenager. He told family that the voices were ‘getting worse’.
In 2007, he stabbed two female friends at a party and was sentenced to 12 years for aggravated assault.
After receiving medication he was deemed to be fit for trial but a judge and court-appointed psychiatrist advised Lester should be housed in a facility where he would receive the necessary mental health treatment.
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However he was placed in the general population of inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson, went off his medication and was sent to a unit for behavioral problems.
In June 2010 he had tried to kill himself in prison – but was taken off suicide watch two days prior to his death and put into a shared cell.
The mentally ill man cut into his neck, wrists and legs and one image showed that in his disturbed state, he wrote ‘voices’ on the wall in his own blood.
After the alarm was raised, guards rushed to the cell. In a recording of the 911 call, one officer was heard saying that a prisoner has ‘severely cut himself’.
His aunt Patti Jones watched the distressing footage of her nephew’s last moments along with the young man’s mother.
She told 12 News that on the film, guards wandered around the cell, wondering out loud whether there was a suicide note.
She told the station: ‘Someone then says: ”I think he’s expired” and Tony’s breath gets shallower.’
The four prison guards on duty that night were later suspended and investigated including Hernandez and a guard with 13 years experience, Orlando Pope.
They said they had not tried to save Lester because his hand was concealed by a blanket and they believed he had a weapon.
His aunt Mrs Jones angrily denied this allegation, telling 12 News that her nephew was ‘weak and vulnerable’.
She added: ‘No one knew his medical history… no one knew his name.’
‘No one knew his medical history… no one knew his name.’
Patti Jones, aunt
According to the family, in the footage paramedics rusedh in and wheeled the seriously injured prisoner out on a stretcher.
Officer Pope followed, carrying shackles and chains.
The Arizona Department of Corrections did not reply to a request for comment by MailOnline today.
Distressing images of Lester’s body after his death show wounds to his neck and wrist held together with staples.
In tapes from the internal investigation, the most senior guard Orlando Pope was asked: ‘So you guys just stood around for 23 minutes and watched this guy bleed to death?’
Pope answered: ‘No, we kept trying to call him, get his attention and get him to say something… but he was still breathing.’
Pope also told the internal committee that he did not believe he had adequate first-aid training.
Another unidentified officer told the investigation: ‘…and the amount of blood that was there, was really kind of hard to get close to him without literally wallowing in it, to be honest with you.’
Anthony Lester’s family was seeking $3 million in damages to compensate Lester’s mother and his young daughter.
WARNING: DISTRESSING AND GRAPHIC CONTENT
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