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Deschutes DA: Jail inmate’s death found to be suicide, ‘non-criminal incident’

KTVZ file

Was unable to post bail on DUII charge, had been on pain medication

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Thursday he'd finished his review of the circumstances surrounding a county jail inmate's death early last month and determined it to be a suicide and a "non-criminal incident."

The inmate was rushed to St. Charles Bend after the Dec. 3 incident and died three days later at the hospital.

In a news release, Hummel said he "concluded that the manner of death was by suicide. The cause of death is still to be determined, as we are awaiting the final autopsy report from the medical examiner. Regardless of the cause of death, this was a non-criminal incident. "  

The 31-year-old inmate hanged himself in his jail cell with a towel tied to a bunk bed, Hummel said. (KTVZ's general policy is not to use names in suicide-related news items, and to only name suspects in major crimes.)

The inmate was found by corrections Deputy Chad Bach, who was conducting his regular hourly rounds to check on inmates in their cells. 

After seeing the inmate, Hummel said, "Deputy Bach immediately called for other staff to respond, entered the cell, lifted (him) up to relieve pressure on his neck, and held him in this manner until other jail staff arrived and used a cut-down tool to remove the towel from his neck. "

"Deputy Bach’s quick decision to lift and hold (the inmate) while waiting for his colleagues to arrive with a cut down tool gave (him) a fighting chance for survival.  Deputy Bach’s actions were commendable," Hummel wrote.  

Jail and medical staff began life-saving measures, which included applying an automated external defibrillator, performing CPR and administering oxygen. EMTs then arrived on scene and continued life-saving measures. The man was eventually transported by EMTs to St. Charles Bend and admitted, but was declared deceased on Dec. 6.

When the inmate was booked into the jail, Hummel said, "he was asked if he had thoughts of harming himself; he indicated he did not. (He) was thus booked into the general population, as opposed to being referred to a mental health professional and placed on a suicide watch."

Pursuant to COVID protocols in place at the jail, general population inmates initially serve five days in isolation, with no interaction with other inmates, Hummel noted. If they remain symptom free during the five-day observation period, they are then housed with other inmates.

The inmate was in day three of this five-day observation period when he ended his life by suicide. 

"We don’t know why (the inmate) ended his life by suicide, but we know that he was detoxing from prescription pain medication for a back injury, and he was anxious about losing his liberty," Hummel wrote.

He was out of custody at a Dec. 1 court hearing, after which he was ordered to be remanded to jail.

When Deschutes County Sheriff's Office court security deputies approached the man to take him to jail, "he was visibly shaking and self-reported that he was suffering from an anxiety attack," Hummel said.

One of the deputies noted that the man "expressed anxiety about an upcoming job interview that he did not want to miss," and "was observed to take something by mouth – when asked what he ingested, he said it was prescription anti-anxiety medication," the DA said. 

A judge in the inmate's case, alleging DUII and driving with a suspended license, had set bail at $20,000, meaning he would have been conditionally released if he had been able to post 10 percent of that amount, or $2,000.

Hummel said the Tri-County Major Incident Team, with the Redmond Police Department as the lead agency, "conducted a thorough and professional investigation and provided all the evidence he required to conduct his legal analysis and reach his legal conclusion."

In the statement, Hummel said the man "was loved and deserved to live.  Our lives are worse off without him.  Today, I spoke with (his) mother, explained my decision, and extended my sympathies for her loss."

"I encourage anyone who feels alone or discouraged, or who feels like they don’t want to live, to reach out for help.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “273Talk” to 839863.”

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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