Marijuana Inmate With Allergy Dies After Being Given Oatmeal

Toke of the Town reports:

Although marijuana has never killed anyone in history, the marijuana laws have claimed another tragic victim.

Michael Saffioti, 22, who, upon his mother’s advice, had turned himself in to the Lynnwood Police Department after missing a court date, was dead after just one night in the Snohomish County Jail in Washington state, reports Molly Shen of KATU.com. The county could face a lawsuit for ignoring Saffioti’s food allergy.

The young man knew dairy products could kill him; he read labels and carried medication, and suffered severe reactions from just being near dairy protein. His anxiety over the allergy was so severe, in fact, it left him needing medication.

“Ultimately, he found and thought he was better functioning using marijuana,” said his mother, Rose Saffioti, who is a nurse.

But Michael didn’t have a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis medicinally, which left him vulnerable to prosecution. His marijuana use led to several encounters with law enforcement. After the most recent incident, he and his mother went to the police station, carrying his medical history, after he had missed a court date.

“I wanted Michael held accountable for his legal issues and I insisted on it,” his mother said. “But I didn’t want him to die.”

Michael started having trouble breathing after eating the oatmeal that was served to him in jail. According to other inmates, he begged for help.

The guards accused him of faking it, and allowed him to die in horrible pain. The autopsy found his allergic reaction to milk products contributed to his death.

“I know there’s a period where he knew he was going to die,” his mother said. “And he trusted me. Everything was supposed to bet set up, that he’d be taken care of.”

“He was scared,” she said, reports The Associated Press. “I said, ‘You are doing the right thing. They are going to take care of you.’ He said, ‘I have a bad feeling that they are not going to take me seriously.’ ”

“You can’t get help. You can’t call 911,” said Anne Bremner, an attorney representing the Saffioti family. “You’re at their complete mercy. When the jail’s the one that gives you something that’s going to kill you — that they know is going to kill you — they, at a minimum, have to rescue you. And they didn’t.”

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department wouldn’t comment on Saffioti’s death or the potential lawsuit until its “investigation” is complete.

Rose Saffioti said she will sue the county, but that her first goal is to hold someone criminally responsible. Michael’s death is one of six deaths to occur in the same jail since 2010. It’s one of at least two that are resulting in wrongful-death claims against the county.

She and attorney Bremner are encouraging the Snohomish County prosecutor’s office to file involuntary manslaughter charges against jail workers whom they believe should have helped prevent Michael’s death.

Submitted by ‘Anonymous’


  • Common Sense

    Typically, when being booked in, you are asked a series of medical questions. Did he disclose his condition on his stay this time? Those with specific condictions are given special meals. Was there a box left unchecked?

    In one of his previous stays in jail for possession, his food was prepared separate and wrapped in plastic. Another report said he was given pancakes, not oatmeal.

    One wonders why, when such a condition exists, why eat such food in the first place? Could he not smell the milk if it were oatmeal?

    Was it made with water? Or milk?

  • shawn


    Shows what you know. Most foods cooked with dairy products wont smell of milk, and i’m quite certain he listed his allergy. He knows how deadly it could be.

    And all of that ignores the fact they saw a man in physical distress and ignored it. That alone should end in criminal charges.

  • t.

    Certainly no criminal act here.

    As for allergy. He clearly bears the brunt of the responsibility for it. If HE failed to disclose that allergy…his fault. If HE chose to knowingly consume a product that is commonly (almost always) made with the product he is allergic to…his fault. If the COUNTY made the mistake of preparing it with that product and presented it as the food not containing it…the county’s fault.

  • underoath

    @Shawn …how can you be quite certain he disclosed it?

  • Common Sense

    …cooked? They state oatmeal. Last time I checked oatmeal is an ‘oat’ which is a grain, and it doesn’t become ‘oatmeal’ until you at milk or water…

    In one article, it said his allergy/anxiety was so acute, he couldn’t kiss another without asking what they last atem which lead to his drug usage.

    With such a cautionary lifestyle, would he not question oatmeal that was served to him?

  • certain

    Once again, for the very slow among us, if a person is in custody, and has no means whatsoever to summon help, the jailers are 100% responsible. He was denied timely medical care because they thought he was “faking”. Well he wasn’t, and he died. Every guard present who knew of his requests for medical help should be charged with criminally negligent homicide. They aren’t doctors, and most likely have no medical training beyond basic first aid, if that. They chose to act as if they did have medical knowledge and experience, and could determine if a person was actually in distress or not, and it cost a person his life. Dress it up all you want, they killed him and should be held responsible. But they won’t, because our system is broken and corrupt.

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  • Maurice Clemmons Devil Slayer

    Just a few days ago the maricopa county arizona sheriff suddenly decided to settle out of court in a case that started 7 years ago. A diabetic woman named Deborah Braillard was denied insulin for 3 days until she fail into a coma and died. The deputies destroyed her records and claimed they didn’t know she was diabetic. That is until 2 doctors who saw them destroying evidence in the jail testified against them. Then, just like that, they decided to settle out of court for $3.25 million. I wonder why they changed their mind all of a sudden.

  • t.

    Maurice: OK, if there is any evidence for such. But in this case, there isn’t reason to believe that there is at this point.

    Certain: Maybe, if its in anyway true. But in looking at the WHOLE story, a guy so paranoid about his allergy…that he has go turn to marijuana (oh..that won’t make you more paranoid)…won’t kiss someone if theyvve had any dairy…then either doesn’t relay that info OR ignores that fact that oatmeal is made with milk…? Sounds like maybe it was Col. Mustard in the kitchen with a milk carton.

  • shawn


    Um, because his life had long depended on remembering this serious allergy. Do I know for a fact he didn’t? No, I don’t. Do you know for a fact he didn’t, I doubt it. But he would have been living with this issue, and knew the results of a mistake.

  • shawn


    You’re making a lot of assumptions here. One, you’re assuming a man who’s life depended on remembering this allergy would forget to notify them, even though this isn’t his first time in the jail system. You would think they had his previous records on hand as well, though since I haven’t been in, I don’t know that.
    Your statement is like someone who told me I spelled my name wrong. Which is more likely, they made the mistake, or I did? Same with him. Which is more likely, he forgot to notify them of such a deadly condition, or they screwed up and made a mistake?(Like that never happens./sarcasm.)

    You’re assuming he deliberately ate what amounted to poison for him. A little tough to swallow. We don’t even know what the dairy ingredient was. It could have been butter mixed in, and somewhere it was said there was some doubt as to if it was oatmeal, or something else. Possible oatmeal related. It is far more likely he was ignorant of the dairy product in his food, rather than he chose to use this as a means of suicide.
    “With such a cautionary lifestyle, would he not question oatmeal that was served to him?”
    I’ve never been inside, but I’m pretty sure they don’t act like waiters and answer all the questions of the inmates. “Here is your food, eat it or don’t” is a more likely interaction.

    And last, he is a prisoner. As common said, he is unable to summon medical assistance. Just as a person in a nursing home is the responsibility to their care givers, a jail and its staff are responsible for the care and safety of their inmates. Even if it were a suicide, they would have a responsibility to summon help and attempt to save his life.
    They knew that he was demonstrating physical distress. They assumed he was lying. Well to quote a movie line. “Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.”

    They aren’t responsible for his choices, if he didn’t notify them and/or deliberately consumed something harmful. And both are doubtful. But they are responsible for their choices and obligations.

  • DW

    I have ate a LOT of oatmeal over the years, and have allways seen/made it with water, and am not familiar with it being made/prepared with milk.

    I would assume it is prepared with water and not milk, since this is not what I am familiar with.

    Perhaps he had never seen it prepared with milk, so was not expecting it.

    In this case, if he was experiencing a medical condition and alerted the authorities, it comes down to their responsibility to respond to it.

  • Tom

    Here are some facts for the willfully ignorant blame the victim crowd.

    1. He fully informed authorities and brought medication that would have saved his life with him.


    “After informing officials about his severe allergies and providing them with the medications he would need in the case of a reaction, he thought he would be placed in the medical unit of the jail. However, he was placed with the general population and his medical needs were ignored. ”

    2. His pleas for help completely ignored and met with threats of being sent to isolation.


    “He was placed in the general population where prison guards reportedly ignored Saffioti’s medical needs. Inmates who were in the prison with Saffioti said that the his pleas for help were ignored.

    ‘The response from the guards was things like this: ‘If you don’t cut it out, you’re going into the hole,’ and ‘stop faking it,’”

    The hypocrisy of police abuse apologists never ceases to amaze me. They feverishly beat the drum of personal responsibility and holding people accountable until it’s applied to their own.

  • John Q Public

    If this pans out, it could be very bad for Snohomish County. And the guys in the jail usually are not cops, they’re corrections officers. I have a relative who works in a jail as a CO and they don’t get law enforcement training. While Saffioti brought a lot of this on himself by using illegal drugs and not going to court, he did not deserve to die.

  • Mr. Bawkbagawk

    Common ive been working in kitchens for over 25 years, oatmeal is rolled oats, not the method of preparation.

  • certain

    Exactly. It will be bad for Snohomish County. Or more accurately, the taxpayers of Snohomish County. The cops involved (jails are typically run by the sheriff’s dept, not corrections officers, but nice guess anyway) will be protected by their superiors, their union, and the court system. Because even though a civil settlement in the 6 figure rang will be paid out, which tends to point out that there is some blame on the cops part, the cops will insist that they did nothing wrong and acted “within policy”.

    Nope, no double standard here, move along.

  • Aaron

    @ Bawkbagawk: let’s not be pedantic. Do you just put the oats in a bowl, like you would a feed bag for a horse? No. For the final product, you add something to it, either water or milk. My mother did it both ways, depending on what was available.

    @ John Q. Public: While Saffioti brought a lot of this on himself by using illegal drugs and not going to court

    That’s one way to see it. I prefer to see it as a misguided and wasteful use of our police resources, because weed isn’t nearly the danger to American society that our officials would have you believe, and is probably less dangerous than alcohol. But that’s a different discussion.

  • Aaron

    Why does “acting within policy” work to protect cops, but “just following orders” didn’t save Nazi soldiers?

  • Rita

    @ common sense — You can smell milk? Seriously? How cool is THAT? I have 3 grown-up kids with varying degrees of milk intolerance/allergy, and I’m pretty sure none of them can “smell” milk in prepared food. It would certainly be a useful skill, though.

    In my state, the county jails are run by the sheriff’s department, and the DO’s are deputies. It sounds to me like they were well aware of this young man’s allergies, but whether they notified the kitchen or not, they were certainly aware after the fact that he was sick, and took it upon themselves to deny medical treatment. For that, they should be held accountable.

  • shawn


    Actually, he didn’t bring this on himself. His choices brought the arrest onto himself. His choices have nothing to do with their choices. That is all on them.

    Think of it this way. Someone gets money late at night from an atm. Are they responsible for the mugger’s choice? No. A woman dresses sexy. Is she responsible for her rapest’s choice. No.

  • Common Sense

    The articles clearly stated that he had not only sever allergy(s) but the anxiety to go with them, thus an apparent chemical dependency. When one must ask what another has eaten, to avoid death, I can make a logically conclusion that they have ‘honed’ their faculties to detect milk in oatmeal. Its not like its hidden under the masked potatoes. Now, given this apparently lethal breakfast – why would he eat it? Not being one who eats oatmeal, I ask the question. Can you not smell milk? I can certainly smell it in cereal.

    Given it’s asphyxia, a panicked 3-5 minutes is not much time to get help – given it was something he feared, that did not help either. I would take that long for someone even in a position to help, to either call 911, or summon a jail nurse, or really do anything.

    He was dead when he hit the floor.

    Many jails have constant video, it will be interesting to see the timeline.

  • shawn


    You’re a moron. What you’re suggesting is he committed suicide. You also ignore that they KNEW he was in physical distress and ignored it.

    News flash for you, people with allergies often accidentally consume what they are allergic to.

  • certain

    Shawn, Common will say the most f’d up things he can think of, just so you will get upset. He is weak and ineffectual in real life, so affecting people in this way is all he has. Arguing with him only encourages him to continue. Just look at his thought processes – “The articles clearly stated that he had not only sever allergy(s) but the anxiety to go with them, thus an apparent chemical dependency” – the incorrect punctuation, misspelled words, and disjointed sentence structure all point out a defective reasoning ability. Don’t get mad, just ignore him and sooner or later he’ll go away.

  • Rita

    You put a person in a cage, you assume responsibility for that person’s well-being. If you don’t want to take care of them, don’t f**king lock them up. If this guy “brought this on himself” by smoking marijuana, (And correct me if I’m wrong, but had he been convicted?) then everyone who supports marijuana prohibition are equally at fault. But you know who really is to blame? The sadistic cretins who stood and watched him die, and did NOTHING.

  • shawn


    wasn’t upset. Just can’t stand idiotic statements that divorced from reality.




    wasn’t upset. Just can’t stand idiotic statements that divorced from reality

    Going on the 1st comment by certain. Did you read the majority of it? I agree with him(i know u r surprised). Book-in questions include allergies. Did he tell them if he was allergic? If so, they owe his family a big check, if not…. well the ammount of the check depends on what happened in the jail after he had problems.

  • Common Sense

    I did not insinuate he committed suicide. This incident has numerous topics, the first is why would someone with a lifelong, lethal allergy, consume something that would be fatal? What policy/procedure(s) are in place for PR bonds for this time of incident? In some states, FTA are ineligible for bonds until they make an appearance before the bench. Again, more to this then, “ate oatmeal, died”

    Had the news stories, mother, whomever, stated that records indicated that the jail staff prepared ‘his last meal’ as it were, with water, when what else could be the cause of death? If it were milk, then why (1) was it served (2) why did he eat it?

    I know you all want to make things black and white, but many times, it isn’t that way.

    …and yes certain, I know in your previous life you were a 7th grammar teacher, but for this site, no one cares.

  • shawn


    Clearly he didn’t know he was consuming dairy. That happens to a lot of people allergic to certain foods. And don’t forget that dairy isn’t just milk. Sometimes it’s an additive to foods. It could have been butter mixed into the oatmeal. Or it might not have actually been oatmeal, but some oatmeal based food or something else. The food itself isn’t relevant.

    Now I can understand screwups happen and they accidentally gave him this food. It may not have even been a milk allergy, but something else that he didn’t know about. I don’t know if the coroner has confirmed that is the cause of death.
    The black and white part is that they admit to seeing him in distress and ASSUMED he was lying. That is the part that matters most when it comes to their responsibility.

  • certain

    They owe him a big check. That’s funny. What they owe is 10 or so years in prison for negligent homicide.

  • shawn


    That is part of the problem. They think simple money, and tax payer money at that, should make their mistakes go away. A man is dead, and they made the choice to ignore their obligations to get him medical aid.

  • Common Sense

    How does he not know what he’s eating? Its oatmeal, you can see the milk? And with his near paranoia of death at the next bite, wouldn’t he have acute senses and extremely protective mindset?

  • Rita

    Common nonsense, you’re deliberately missing the fucking point. He TOLD the jailers he was sick. The JAILERS took it upon themselves to play God and let him die.

  • Rita

    Apparently, this young man learned from his mother — to her everlasting grief — that the po-lice can be trusted.

  • Jean

    Since it was mentioned (OK, i’m late to the party):
    Oatmeal can be prepared with milk, or with water, or with a blend of the two. Milk makes the oatmeal softer, somehow. Doesn’t make any difference in the taste to me, but I eat it with milk on top. Wouldn’t know.
    OTOH, maybe someone here can do it as an experiment (I refuse, I despise oatmeal, though I do eat it from time to time.) The creamier consistency of milk-cooked oatmeal MIGHT be a giveaway, but you can do similar by overcooking the oatmeal for a minute or two when using water. When done, the only visible difference is a slight white coloration to the oatmeal, instead of the normal gray-gray. Think of it as the difference between North and North-North-West.
    Why the F a jail can afford THAT sort of dairy investment is beyond me – milk and gas cost about the same these days, and it’s going to get worse. ;-)

  • Rita

    @ Jean — It could be that the jail is still using up government commodities that include powdered milk. Maybe the kitchen trustees thought they were giving their fellow inmates a treat. Maybe it wasn’t the oatmeal at all. People with severe food allergies can’t even eat anything that has come in contact with whatever they’re allergic to.

    Some other commenter brought up the case in Phoenix where the taxpayers just got ripped a big one for their sheriff allowing a diabetic woman to die for want of medical care in his custody 7 years ago. At the time, the jail’s “medical” staff claimed that they ignored her pleas for help because they thought she was “in the throes of drug withdrawal.” I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this young man was in jail on a marijuana charge.

    The problem isn’t the oatmeal. The problem is that people who work for the travesty of justice system see themselves as gods and suspected drug users as less than human.

  • Knew Michael

    I’d like to clear a few things up. I knew Michael. Michael’s allergy was so severe that eating something that was prepared or served in the same pan or dish that had contained dairy was enough to kill him. So, even if he’d been told that the oatmeal did not contain milk (and why would a jail prepare oatmeal with milk – which is expensive – instead of water – which is cheap) if the pan or dish wasn’t properly washed there still could have been enough dairy to kill him.

    Michael AND his Mother informed Snohomish County of the allergies and their severity. They took his medication with him so that the jail would have it in case of an incident. His Mother even offered to bring food for him to eat. Snohomish County was well aware of Michael’s medical condition and chose to ignore him. Instead of being placed in a medical unit, they placed him in general population.

    Michael was forced to eat the oatmeal by the guards. He was threatened with solitary confinement if he didn’t eat. This happens. Inmates are not allowed to go on hunger strikes in jails. Then when he did eat and started to have a reaction he was accused of faking and ignored.

    He died. Snohomish County is at the very least negligent. In my opinion the county and the guards who ignored him are guilty of criminal manslaughter or even homicide. They knew he could die and they let him. End of story.

  • Rita

    @ knew Micheal: Thank you.