The day before Deandre Whitehead died late last month, his attorney had come to visit him at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center for a wellness check.
Marci T. Johnson, a Baltimore public defender who had known Whitehead since he was 18, got the call on Jan. 22. Whitehead’s mother had been told by other detainees that her son, who was 38, suffered what looked like a seizure that weekend and unexpectedly passed out, Johnson said.
Two days later, on Jan. 24, Johnson was at the facility — which is one of several used to house detainees in Baltimore’s sprawling downtown jail system — for a wellness check. She learned from Whitehead that, after losing consciousness, he had seen a nurse and had blood drawn, but never saw a doctor and was not sent to the hospital, Johnson said.
“People don’t pass out like that when they’ve never done that before,” Johnson said.
The fate of Whitehead is the latest episode in a spate of deaths in Baltimore’s jail system. It occurred several days after the death of 37-year-old Chase Williams, who was found unresponsive just hours after he was booked into the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center.
There have been at least four deaths tied to Baltimore’s jail system since mid-October, when Javarick Gantt was killed; his cellmate is charged with murder in his death. But the total number of deaths is not clear because the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which runs Baltimore’s jails, has not yet provided records on deaths in its facilities. Like Williams’ death, The Baltimore Banner learned of Whitehead’s death from independent sources and had to confirm it with the agency.
In a statement, the Maryland corrections department said staff at the jail “became aware that Mr. Whitehead needed medical attention” around 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 and transported him to the medical unit. Employees there called 911. The paramedics arrived and pronounced Whitehead dead shortly thereafter.
Corrections department detectives found “no immediate signs of foul play,” the agency said, but its investigation is ongoing.
Johnson, Whitehead’s attorney, said her client reported feeling OK and told her he was being given Tylenol, although he was informed by nurses he most likely suffered a concussion from hitting his head on the floor when he passed out. She asked officials why Whitehead hadn’t seen a doctor yet. The question was never answered, she said, and by the next day, Whitehead was dead.
Latreice Whitehead, Deandre’s wife, said she heard from her husband the day before he passed away, and he had described what happened to him as a heatstroke.
“They took him to medical but didn’t do nothing,” she said. “They gave him some Tylenol and sent him back upstairs.”
The next day, Latreice Whitehead heard from her husband again, who informed her he had passed out yet again, this time in the shower. She asked him if he was receiving any kind of tests, such as an X-ray or CT scan, but Whitehead told her he was sent back to his cell.
“He was complaining about how hot it was and he asked them to turn the heat down, but they would say it can only go hot or cold,” Whitehead said. “When we go for visits, it’s always too hot.”
The corrections department did not answer questions about whether Whitehead had seen a doctor.
Latreice Whitehead said her husband was healthy when he entered Central Booking in 2021, but his trial continued to get postponed. She said he never had medical issues before his incarceration.
Court records indicate Whitehead was being held on attempted murder charges and other related offenses.
Whitehead’s family and attorney have vowed to get access to his medical records and try to figure out what happened to him. Johnson, the attorney, said obtaining those types of records is often a lengthy process rife with delays.
Johnson added that Whitehead was likely being held in the facility he was in as opposed to Central Booking due to crowding issues there. The corrections department did not state a reason as to why Whitehead was being held in the diagnostic and classification center.
This story has been updated with Deandre Whitehead’s correct age.