I need to go to the hospital,” Alex Billmeyer told police officers as he was being booked into Dubuque County Jail, Iowa, on May 26, as recently released body-worn camera footage reveals.
Just over an hour later, the 29-year-old man was found dead in his cell, as Filter reported in an investigation in June.
The footage, obtained by Dubuque’s daily newspaper, the Telegraph Herald, verifies that Billmeyer was experiencing a health crisis that was recognized by police officers, yet left untreated. After watching the video “over and over and over again,” his mother, Carmen Billmeyer, told Filter that she believes his death “was preventable.”
Billmeyer can be seen in the video rocking back and forth while seated on a metal bench in the precinct, breathing heavily and muttering to himself. His concerning behavior is noticed by the officer with the camera, who tells a colleague that Billmeyer’s state is “super bad.”
As Billmeyer seems to become more agitated, the officer commands, “Dude, there’s nobody here alright. Calm down.”
A screenshot from the body-worn camera footage, showing Alex Billmeyer experiencing a mental health crisis while police officers have a conversation.
“My reaction would’ve been, he needs to go to the hospital,” said Carmen Billmeyer. “The police need to be more responsible so it doesn’t happen to some other kid. I think half of them don’t know what they’re doing or they don’t give a crap.”
The officer wearing the camera seems to have been well aware that Billmeyer was intoxicated. In the footage Billmeyer clearly states, although quietly and amidst audible distress, that he took “some really strong shit”—which he confirmed was meth—that “fucked me up.”
Sheriff Joe Kennedy of Dubuque County, speaking with Filter in June, also acknowledged that “he was in a paranoid state when he came in.”
Yet instead of inquiring about Billmeyer’s meth-related symptoms—which might have included a pounding heart rate, overheating or hallucinations—the officer in the footage presses Billmeyer to disclose who sold him the meth. “You don’t know? Well you had to get it from somewhere. You don’t know who you got it from? Was it a friend?”
Billmeyer repeatedly declines to disclose this information.
“They were just more worried where they got the meth than about Alex. It upsets me really bad,” said Carmen Billmeyer. “They didn’t care.”
The officer takes Billmeyer into the elevator and up to the jail to be booked. Billmeyer lurches forward, and the officer tightly clenches his arm.
At the time of his arrest, his mother saw that Billmeyer could not stand up on his own. The officer also expressed concern about “how he’s going to act” when he was moved upstairs. Upon reviewing the video, Carmen Billmeyer believes her son simply tripped over himself, and that the officer’s strong-armed reaction was unjustified “man-handling.”
“When [Billmeyer] got up to the jail floor, he was becoming uncooperative,” said Sheriff Kennedy in June. “Generally, they put them in the cell and wait until they come down from their high. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it to that time.”
It seems that the officers taking Alex up to his fatal jail visit didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. In the elevator, a different officer says, “You’re gonna be okay, Alex.” As they exit the car and enter the jail, the main officer is heard saying, “You’re safe.”