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Ala. prison denies claims corrections officer died of exposure to a tear gas spray

Correctional Officer Senior Yashea J. Chapel died Nov. 10 at a hospital following an asthma attack, an Alabama DOC spokesperson said

Jail

Tim Dominick

By Ivana Hrynkiw
al.com

BESSEMER, Ala. — The Alabama prison system is responding to claims that an officer died in one of its prisons after exposure to a tear gas spray.

According to Alabama Department of Corrections spokesperson Kelly Betts, Correctional Officer Senior Yashea J. Chapel died on November 10. The prison where she worked, Donaldson Correctional Facility, was notified by Chapel’s mother, Betty Ann Davidson .

“Officer Chapel had died at a local hospital following an asthma attack at home,” said Betts.

The incident sparked outrage on social media after an Alabama Political Reporter article claimed the officer died of exposure to mace. The Equal Justice Initiative also posted an article, citing the APR’s story, on its website.

But, the prison spokesperson said there were no documented incidents of Chapel, who had been with the department since 2018, “being directly exposed to chemical agents at work.”

“She was mentioned in an incident report on November 6, 2023 , where she escorted an inmate to the Health Care Unit and that inmate had been exposed to chemical agents,” said Betts. “She did not report any illness following that incident and finished her shift on that day. She also worked three subsequent shifts with no report of any illness.”

The department provided information on the times of Chapel’s shift for the following three days.

Betts said prison staff “have been in regular communication” with Davidson and Chapel’s sister. Those talks have been “to express condolences, assist with necessary paperwork, arrange for an ADOC Honor Guard at the funeral, assist with applying for support from the Alabama Correctional Employee Support Fund and the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation , and other matters.”

According to Betts, prison staffers attended Chapel’s funeral and collected money and Christmas gifts for the family. “At no time during these encounters did any family member ever mention any concerns about an exposure to chemicals in the workplace,” said Betts.

The prison wasn’t asked about chemical exposure prior to news articles being published, said Betts.

Davidson hasn’t returned AL.com’s request for comment.

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