Thursday, June 3, 2021

2 prisoners found dead at Racine County Jail in 4 days


Deputies are investigating the deaths of two inmates at the Racine County Jail within four days.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said a 22-year-old man died in his cell Saturday morning, a few hours after a drunken-driving arrest.

Then, on Tuesday, 27-year-old Malcolm James died after violently hitting his head on a cell wall. Investigators did not release his name, but family members identified him.

During his time in the jail, based on his recent suicide attempt, the sheriff's office said the suspect was placed on suicide close watch in a high visibility cell.

Investigators said the suspect engaged in multiple acts of self-harm where he would, among other things, violently smash his head into a concrete wall.

On one occasion, Schmaling's office said the suspect's self-harming behavior was serious enough that he was taken to a hospital for additional medical attention.

According to investigators, on Tuesday night, the suspect was again smashing his head into a concrete wall so violently that it was audible to jail staff.

When corrections officers took steps to medically evaluate the suspect and prevent him from harming himself, Schmaling's office said he experienced a medical event that led to him becoming unresponsive.

Staff said they immediately provided medical care and additional emergency personnel were called to the jail.

The suspect did not regain consciousness and he was pronounced dead.

His family wants to know why his mental health crisis wasn't addressed.

"I want to find out what really happened to my son," his father Thoston Morehead said. "I need to know everything that happened to my son when he was down there locked up because really he's never been locked up before. He's a good kid."

His arrest stemmed from a fire in his apartment last weekend.

James' family said it should have been treated as a cry for help rather than a crime.

"He was inside with the fire, he didn't set the apartment on fire and leave and try to get away. He set the apartment on fire and was inhaling the smoke. He wasn't mentally there and I know my brother," Thomas James said.

"I loved him so much," James' aunt Schenell Conner said. "I know they have a protocol and I know they have to follow those measures. Something went wrong."

Schmaling said the corrections officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

The man who died Saturday morning was arrested at about 3 a.m. The sheriff's office said he was taken to the Racine County Jail at about 5:30 a.m., where he was allowed to go to sleep in a holding cell.

Nursing staff checked on him at 7 a.m. and said he appeared to be fine, but an hour later they said he was "yellow in color and not breathing," Schmaling said.

He was identified as 22-year-old Ronquale Ditello-Scott Jr. He was accused of multiple violations, including operating a vehicle while impaired.

The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department will conduct the investigations into both deaths.


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