John Doe hearing into Mental Health Complex death continues

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — A public John Doe hearing into Brandon Johnson’s death continued Tuesday, March 5th. The Milwaukee County District Attorney is taking an in-depth look at how the 25-year-old man died at the county’s Mental Health Complex.

On October 6th, Johnson died of a pulmonary embolism while a patient at the Mental Health Complex.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke called the death suspicious, but the DA hasn’t seen enough evidence to charge anyone in connection with Johnson’s death. This public John Doe hearing could be the tipping point in this case.

Attorney Jon Safran represents Johnson’s mother. In early October, Johnson was admitted to the Mental Health Complex after his family says he had an emotional breakdown, but what was supposed to be a few days of getting better ended up being the final days of Johnson’s life.

On October 3rd, Johnson's mother Alicia called 911 after her son Brandon started acting in a bizarre way -- crawling on his hands and knees and rolling on the kitchen floor. Soon after police took him to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, Alicia said she tried to get him out. Alicia said she was concerned when visiting him that night at the institution.

"He said he couldn't feel his legs. The nurse said 'no it's all in his head -- it's illusions. It's a psychosis condition that we're finding. There's nothing wrong with Brandon. He can walk,'" Alicia Johnson said.

On October 5th, Alicia went to a court hearing to try to get her son out of the institution, but it didn't work. Three days later, Alicia Johnson and other relatives got the news from an official at the institution.

"He said 'I'm sorry to inform you -- Brandon expired.' Everybody hit the floor. What are you talking about? I was hollering so bad I thought I was going to die. I just didn't understand what happened," Alicia Johnson said.

An autopsy showed Johnson's back was broken in three places. Dr. David Drake examined Johnson the day before his death, after Johnson complained of paralysis. Dr. Drake said Johnson was moving and pointing and Dr. Drake saw nothing to indicate Johnson needed emergency help.

"In my heart I feel terrible and I feel torn that a young man has lost his life. I only wish I could change that in some way. I have reflected deeply about what happened that day. Granted, the entire encounter was between fifteen and twenty minutes in a very busy day, and some of the details grow fuzzy over five months. I can only wish there was some way to bring Brandon back," Dr. Drake said.

Unlike most DA investigations, this hearing is open to the public. The investigation consists of a judge, a prosecutor and witnesses the prosecutor has called to answer questions. At this point, their testimony is purely informational, as no one has been charged in connection with Johnson’s death.

The DA’s Office told FOX6 News they didn’t feel a need to keep these proceedings confidential, especially since the case is already so public.

The John Doe hearing is scheduled to run through March 7th.

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