Mickey George had just been escorted into the Olean jail when he heard a woman scream: "Oh my god. He's hanging."
George, who had been arrested on a misdemeanor charge following a fight with a relative on June 11, told The Buffalo News he was in the cellblock when Stephen Schindlbeck, 31, was discovered hanging in his jail cell. Schindlbeck died six days later at Erie County Medical Center. Schindlbeck's death is under investigation by both the Olean Police Department and the state Commission of Correction.
A separate investigation by the State Police led to the arrest earlier this week of an Olean police dispatcher who allegedly falsified a prison log.
George, 31, of Olean, gave an account of what he saw in the jail that day:
George was handcuffed when a patrol officer brought him into the jail at about 12:45 p.m. Immediately, he heard a woman, who he would later learn was a police dispatcher, yell. He saw that the man inside the cell closest to the door George had just walked through was hanging by his neck from his undershirt.
The officer who had brought George in yelled, "Bring me your knife!" and a second police officer handed him one. The officer cut through Schindlbeck's shirt and Schindlbeck fell, hitting his head on the floor.
"He hit the floor like a sack of potatoes," George said. "I jumped back into a corner and I covered my mouth with my hand and I was shaking in my boots."
The officers took the Schindlbeck's pulse but otherwise did not render any medical aid. Paramedics arrived and began working on Schindlbeck.
"I overheard them asking questions like, "Was he on drugs?" "When was the last time you checked on him?" George said.
An officer told the paramedics that Schindlbeck hit his head when he was cut down.
After about 15 minutes, paramedics administered some medication and were able to get a pulse. He was then taken away in a stretcher.
Schindlbeck died at ECMC on June 17.