Inmate with dairy allergy dies after eating oatmeal

EVERETT, Wash. -- Rose Saffioti was sure she was doing the right thing when she encouraged her son to turn himself over to police.

An arrest warrant for Michael Saffioti had been issued after he missed a court date. But after one night in jail, he was dead.

Now Snohomish County could face a lawsuit over a food allergy that may have been ignored.

Michael Saffioti knew dairy could kill him. He grew up reading labels and carrying medication, and still suffered severe reactions whenever he was merely near dairy protein. The stress made him anxious to the point of needing medication.

"Ultimately, he found and thought he was better functioning using marijuana," said his mother.

Michael did not have a medical marijuana prescription, and his use put him in and out of the legal system. In the most recent incident, he and his mother went to police, armed with his medical history after he had missed a court date.

"I wanted Michael held accountable for his legal issues and I insisted on it. But I didn't want him to die," said Rose.

After eating oatmeal in jail, Michael couldn't breathe. Other inmates say Michael begged for help and was accused of faking it. The autopsy found his severe reaction to milk products contributed to his death.

"You can't get help. You can't call 911. You're at their complete mercy," said Anne Bremner, an attorney representing the Saffioti family. "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 Office said it would not comment on what happened or on the potential lawsuit until its investigation is complete.

In the meantime, Michael's mother is wearing his ring as a symbol of her quest for answers.

"This reminds me every day what I have to do for Michael," she said. "I know there's a period where he knew he was going to die. And he trusted me. Everything was supposed to be set up, that he'd be taken care of."

Rose said she will sue the county, but her first goal is to hold someone criminally responsible.

She and her attorney will encourage the prosecutor's office to file involuntary manslaughter charges against jail workers whom they believe should have prevented Michael's death.