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Demonstrators call on Indiana county officials to answer for death of jailed woman

Ta'Neasha Chappell's sister and mother flag her 10-year-old daughter during a November rally.
Ta'Neasha Chappell's sister and mother flag her 10-year-old daughter during a November rally.

Four months ago, Ta’Neasha Chappell of Louisville died while in custody of Indiana’s Jackson County Jail. Officials said she was found unresponsive in her cell.

About 100 demonstrators, including Chappell’s family, rallied outside the county’s courthouse on Tuesday, calling on officials for transparency regarding the circumstances surrounding Chappell’s death. They demanded the release of information they said could shed light on how she died — including the autopsy report and video footage from outside her jail cell.

Linda Sarsour, a national social justice advocate, said there won’t be justice until Chappell’s family gets answers about what happened to her. 

“What has happened here in Indiana is an injustice and Ta’Neasha Chappell’s life matters. And the reason why this continues to happen is because they think that we're going to sweep it under the rug and go on with our lives, ” Sarsour said.

Chappell’s family filed a federal lawsuit in October against Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer and eight of his employees, for inaction on July 15 and 16 that Chappell’s family says led to her death. It calls for $30 million in compensation. 

According to the lawsuit, Chappell was denied medical treatment even as she repeatedly vomited  blood, had diarrhea and called for help. It states she was also accused by the jail nurse of faking her illness, and that jail staff advised EMS that their services weren’t needed.

“Each of the defendants...was deliberately indifferent to the treatment of the plaintiff’s serious health and safety concerns in a manner that directly and approximately caused her to die,” lawyers wrote in the complaint. 

Speaking at the rally, attorney Sam Aguiar raised questions about the case.

“Ta’Neasha’s family didn't get the phone call right when her daughter died. Hours passed. Things were happening behind the scenes and we still don't know about,” he said. 

Chappell’s family members said she reported receiving several threats, including finding a noose in her cell, before her death. Attorneys for the family said they suspect foul play. However, they don’t have access to records, like the video and coroner’s report, to support that. 

“I think Jackson County's attorneys are gonna take the position that we see all the time: that it's a pending law enforcement investigation,” Aguiar said. “We need these documents. We need the video especially to pursue a case. We haven't seen — they won't give us Ta’Neasha’s own jail records. We haven't even got her jail file.”

Indiana State Police are investigating Chappell’s death and the jail.

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