Video of autistic man’s treatment at jail before death shocked his loved ones, friends say

The 2023 death of an autistic man in custody at the Montgomery County Jail reverberated among his loved ones, who called video surveillance footage of his treatment in jail “shocking.”

“Watching it and actually seeing the effects on him and the way he was treated definitely is enough to keep you up at night and leave you wondering how he was feeling in there,” said Caitlin Miner, a friend and coworker of Isaiah Trammell.

Trammell, 19, was brought to Montgomery County Jail on a warrant in February 2023. Security footage from the jail show him striking his head multiple times while in custody and being put into a restraint chair. He pleaded for medication before falling unconscious and being hospitalized and dying days later.

Miner said she immediately noticed Trammell’s energy when he began working with her at a Lebanon restaurant. It was important to the teen to help people around him build an understanding about disabilities.

“He would introduce himself, ‘Hi, I’m Isaiah. I’m autistic. I have ADHD,” said Miner. “He was very communicative. He was outgoing, and unfiltered. There was no filter with that boy.”

All Trammell wanted for himself and others with disabilities was to be seen and heard, said his former manager Spencer Wurzelbacher.

“That was one of the very special things about Isaiah — every moment you spent with him was a teaching moment, whether for him or for you,” Wurzelbacher said. “And he was always so patient regardless of who was doing the learning. I don’t think there was a single day that myself and others didn’t learn something new about him or about autism.”

The teen was known for blasting music in the back as he washed dishes or cheering on his favorite sports teams when they showed games on televisions in the dining area.

Trammell especially loved the Cincinnati Bengals or anything wrestling and John Cena. He loved rapping and produced his own music.

“Thinking of Isaiah, I just think about all of his overly excited times,” Miner said. “Or even just him wanting to always help.”

Miner said she and others who were friends with Isaiah were devastated by the news of his passing, but the shock returned when they saw the surveillance footage.

“We have replayed it in our heads, and it’s in the back of our heads all the time now,” she said. “You’re just left wondering what happened, how did it happen, why did it happen.”

Trammell’s death was among seven reported from January through July last year, and in December a man died after being transferred from the jail to the hospital.

The Montgomery County Jail Coalition has called for a state-led investigation into the death of Trammell and other inmates at the pre-trial facility last year.

Dayton Daily News reporting revealed more inmates died at the Montgomery County jail last year than all of 2021 and 2022 combined, leading to calls for the community to take action.

Our analysis of state data also showed more people died after coming into custody at the Montgomery County jail last year than any other jail in Ohio. The Dayton Daily News investigated what was causing this rash of fatalities, and what county officials were doing about it.

The sheriff’s office commented that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Bureau of Adult Detention reviewed the death of Trammell last year, finding no “deficiencies” in how the sheriff’s office handled the case.

Miner said that at their job, employees could earn magnetic hat pins for demonstrating different character traits on the clock. Isaiah took pride over collecting all five pins, which he called his “infinity stones” — he was also a Marvel fan.

Miner placed part of the pins in his coffin during his funeral, and she keeps their other halves in her car to remember him.

“There’s so many things I could say about Isaiah,” said Miner. “He was family to us. We saw every side of him.”

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