SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes detectives are investigating after a male inmate died in custody early Thursday morning.
Spokane County Detention Services Staff responded to an emergency alarm in cell D-1, in the Jail Annex at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. The cell was occupied by ten inmates. The alarm is activated when one of the inmates presses the button for help.
The responding officer talked to one of the inmates, who said he had been sleeping but woke up and was having trouble breathing. The officer requested a medical response. Additional staff and the jail nurse responded to the cell and performed life-saving efforts to the male, who had lost consciousness and wasn't breathing.
Spokane Fire Department personnel arrived on scene and helped administer life-saving efforts.
The male was pronounced deceased around 2:15 a.m.
The Spokane County Sheriff's deputy and Major Crimes detectives began an investigation, per protocol for in custody deaths.
During the investigation, detectives learned that the deceased inmate and another inmate had been in a physical fight a few minutes before the alarm was activated. The fight ended quickly, and the two inmates went back to their assigned beds after cleaning themselves up, along with some blood on the floor.
About five minutes later, the inmate asked someone to activate the alarm because he was having difficulty breathing.
Detectives located and collected evidence from the scene, and are requesting a search warrant to obtain potential evidence from the other inmate involved.
The name of the second inmate has not yet been released at this time.
Additional charges may be filed as the investigation continues.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office will release the name of the deceased inmate, along with the cause of death, at a later time. According to Spokane County Detention Services, the inmate was being held on two felony charges, and was awaiting trail. He had been in custody for almost two years.
Spokane County Detention Services is currently housing 652 inmates in the downtown Spokane County Jail.
John McGrath, Detention Services Director stated:
“This is a tragedy that Spokane County Detention Services takes very seriously. Any death that occurs while in custody is tragic and we do everything in our power to prevent inmates from causing harm to themselves or others. While this death remains under investigation, the other recent losses of life at the jail have hastened our focus on enlisting the help of nationally recognized consultants to address our policies regarding suicide prevention and medical emergencies. Starting in September our medical staff will be able to administer Buprenorphine for inmates suffering from symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Also in September, Lindsay M. Hayes, MS, a nationally recognized expert on suicide prevention, will begin reviewing policies and practices regarding incidences of self-harm.”
Chair of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, Josh Kerns, said:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of this inmate. While it is too early to draw conclusions about this morning’s incident, the Board of County Commissioners is committed to working with Detention Services and expert consultants to implement best management practices in our facilities that ensure the health and safety of all of the Spokane County inmates and Corrections Officers.”
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