Two in custody deaths have families questioning new policy


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Two in custody deaths have families questioning new policy

  1. 1. Two in-custody deaths have familiesquestioning new policyOriginal Article Source: Harris took her last drink July 28.Two days later, she took her last breath.Harris, a 48-year-old mother of two college students, suffered alcohol withdrawalconvulsions and died in the Marion County Jail.An estimated 35 percent of the 50,000 people sent to the jail each year are drunk orhigh. Some fight. Some stumble. Some fall.But they almost never die.Harris death was especially unusual because it was the second in-custody, alcohol-related death in nine days last summer.Kenneth Flannery died July 21, his birthday, on the way to the Marion County lockup.Witnesses said the 35-year-old was falling-down drunk when he was arrested and takento the Arrestee Processing Center. Police said Flannery kicked and fought them. Hewas put in a jail van but never saw the inside of a cell. When the wagon arrived at thejail, Flannery was struggling for his life. He died 37 minutes later.Neither Flannery nor Harris was taken to the hospital in time to prevent the death. Theirfamilies want to know why.They also want to know whether the answer is in a cost-cutting decision made earlierthis year by Sheriff John Layton. Facing a budget deficit, Layton began asking policeofficers to send directly to jail, rather than to a hospital, those who were drunk, pepper-sprayed or stunned. He also cut the number of inmates who went from jail to thehospital.
  2. 2. Layton told The Star earlier this year that his decision had reduced the number ofinmate visits to the hospital from an average of 80 per month to 12. That is a savings ofabout $900 for each ambulance ride and $1,500 for an emergency room visit.Its unclear whether Flannery or Harris were subject to the shift in practice or even ifgoing to the hospital would have saved them. Sheriffs Lt. Louis Dezelan said "costsavings had absolutely nothing to do with these two cases."The coroner ruled that Harris died of seizures due to alcohol withdrawal syndrome.Flannery died of drug and ethanol intoxication following a struggle with police, thecoroner said. The secondary cause was positional suffocation and obesity. The deathwas ruled an accident.Neither the sheriff nor the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department will comment onthe deaths until internal investigations are complete.Mary Harris former husband, Rick Harris, said he is baffled by how a trespassing arrestended in death."It just seems like if someone is going through (withdrawal)," Harris said, "they would beunder close observation."Flannerys mother is pondering how, overnight, a birthday celebration became a funeralpreparation."It is ungodly what happened," June Flannery, 57, said. "He died on his birthday. Whatdid he do that he deserved to die?"Whether or not the cost-cutting decision played any role in their deaths, the sheriffspolicy begs scrutiny, said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project inWashington, D.C., a group that favors criminal justice reforms.He says that law enforcement agencies looking to cut costs should look last to healthand safety, if only to protect themselves."Its risky; a lot can go wrong," he said. "Youre saying a certain number of peopleneeded to go to the hospital before and now all of a sudden they dont. What changedexcept the money situation?
  3. 3. "Its really irresponsible, even unethical."Its unclear whether either Harris or Flannery asked to go to the hospital.Todd Harper, a spokesman for Indianapolis EMS, said an ambulance went to the sceneof Flannerys arrest but did not take him to the hospital.He said medical privacy laws prevented him from disclosing why Flannery was nothospitalized but said the decision is made by paramedics and the patient -- not lawenforcement -- regardless of the sheriffs policy."It is a patient preference decision," Harper said, "and also a medical necessitydecision." Mary HarrisThe circumstances of Mary Harris death were rare, but her longtime battle with alcoholwas all-too-familiar, doctors and substance counselors said.As a Ball State University student, Harris was a sociable drinker. After her childrenJacob and Kelsey were born, she drank more heavily.But then she quit, her ex-husband said. Mary Harris put the bottle down for 14 yearsand settled into an average middle class routine.She carted the children to school in the morning, worked all day -- she was asaleswoman for years at Mays Chemical and held jobs at Gerdt and Kittles furniturestores -- hustled to the gym at night and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings."She was very intellectual, very professional, very productive," Rick Harris said.But three years ago, she started drinking again.Kelsey had enrolled at Butler University. Jacob had shipped off to DePauw Universitythree years earlier."Could have been the empty-nest syndrome," Harris said.The downward spiral was steep.
  4. 4. She drank heavily. Their marriage dissolved. She began getting into trouble.Nine days before her death, Mary Harris was arrested for public intoxication. Policefound her drunk in a car in a liquor store parking lot on West Washington Street. Whenpolice asked her where she was, she replied, "Right here." They took her to jail.A few days after she was released, she was picked up again by police who answered aburglar alarm at the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corp., 130 E. 30th St.She was sitting at a desk on a Saturday afternoon while the burglar alarm rattled. Policesaid she appeared drunk.Rick Harris thinks she might have been attending AA meetings there.She was taken to the jail about 2:30 p.m. On Monday morning, she was scheduled tosee a nurse. A guard moved her to a holdingcell at the jail, 40 S. Alabama St., at 6:58a.m.Two minutes later, other prisoners in her holding cell shouted that she was having aseizure.The guard called for a medic, and two nurses arrived at 7:03 a.m. By 7:06 a.m., shestopped breathing. The nurses began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.A doctor rushed in at 7:10 a.m. Jail paramedics came at 7:18 a.m. An ambulancearrived a minute later. At 7:37 a.m., she was rushed to Wishard Memorial Hospital,where doctors used a defibrillator to try to start a heartbeat.It didnt work.Mary Harris was pronounced dead at 8:05 a.m. July 30.The coroner said her death was natural. A fatty liver and a dilated heart contributed to it."Everything possible was done by deputies, medics and medical personnel at Wishard,but it was still not enough," IMPD officer Kelly Hayes wrote in a report.The jail had given Mary Harris a depressant, Valium, to control alcohol withdrawalsymptoms. But she suffered the seizure anyway, a police report said.
  5. 5. Rick Harris shudders at the thought of her sweating and trembling in a room full ofstrangers, then seizing up."Was she sitting there shaking?" he asked. "I cant imagine how terrible it would be." Ken FlanneryAlthough Ken Flannery, an only child, and his mother had few material possessions,they shared what they did own."He was always here for me, and I was always there for him," June Flannery said. "If heneeded a place to stay, he could come stay here in the trailer. If I needed a place, Id gowith him."He was born in Ohio and came to Indianapolis with his mother when he was 3. Hedropped out of high school but earned a GED diploma. He held a series of odd jobs andplayed keyboards in a rock band with his friends.Flannery and his girlfriend had three children together, the oldest a 13-year-old girl, wholived with his girlfriends mother.June Flannery said her son "wasnt bad into drinking; it didnt consume his life."And recently, she said, she had seen a spiritual side emerge, if ever so slightly."I encouraged him to watch Christian television with me, and he had been doing it moreand more," she said. "He was really trying to take in the Lord because he had a few badhabits. I think I saw him coming around."On July 21, he was with a group of friends, celebrating his birthday. His mother calledand asked him if he wanted to go to Golden Corral in Greenwood for a birthday dinner.He declined: His friends had just ordered pizza."Thats the last I heard of him," his mother said. "Everything was fine."His last stop on his last birthday was an upstairs apartment at a complex near Stop 11Road and Madison Avenue on the Far Southside.
  6. 6. He had been visiting a relative nearby and stopped for a few beers. Shortly after, he leftand walked south on Madison. He seemed composed and in good spirits."A woman who lives in the complex told me she saw him and he smiled at her and gaveher the peace sign," said his aunt, Mary Bell, 48.It was unclear where he was going. But he ended up in a strip mall in the 8100 block ofMadison.At 7:35 p.m., a woman called 911 to report that he was stumbling and falling down inthe parking lot."He got up and hes walking, but hes going to go down again," the caller told 911. "Heeither needs an ambulance or police. We need somebody here."When police arrived at 7:36 p.m., they said he was combative. They noted in a reportthat he "had a history of violence."He had served four stints in prison since 2000 for intimidation, residential entry and twobattery convictions.He had finished two years parole for the most recent battery just six weeks earlier.Officer Marshall Hoskins wrote that Flannery "physically and forcefully resisted arrest"by "kicking his legs, thrashing his body."He grabbed the leg of an officer while he was on the ground, Hoskins wrote.A transcript of police dispatches obtained by The Star shows he may have beenshocked with a stun gun and pepper-sprayed.At 7:48 p.m., Hoskins requested permission from a supervisor to use a stun gun onFlannery. At the same time, Hoskins requested an ambulance to treat his own thumbinjury.The ambulance arrived at 7:54 p.m. It left, empty, at 8:10 p.m. At 8:12 p.m., Hoskinsrequested permission to use pepper spray. Five minutes later, the jail wagon left withFlannery for the Arrestee Processing Center.
  7. 7. When the wagon arrived at the center at 8:40, the driver opened the rear door."Resistor is down {$326} awake and breathing {$326} no medic needed yet," the driverreported.Minutes later, his diagnosis changed."Medic step it up, Sally port critical ... doing CPR not awake and breathing," he said at8:42."Still working," he reported at 8:51.The records released to The Star dont indicate what happened between then and 9:07p.m., when a request was made for an IMPD homicide detective to go to the APC.Ken Flannery was pronounced dead at 9:17 p.m. His mother was notified at 3:37 a.m.the next morning. CircumstancesMedical and treatment experts said that specific circumstances might have contributedto the deaths of Harris and Flannery.Harris was a heavy drinker in withdrawal -- and alcohol withdrawal, unlike a heroinwithdrawal, can be fatal."If they are daily drinkers and they stop suddenly, it can be very dangerous," said Dr.Barbara Davis of the Fairbanks Treatment Center. "We dont advise everyday drinkersto go cold turkey. We treat them here with sedatives and monitor them closely."Withdrawals happen most often eight to 24 hours after the drinking stops, but thepossibility of seizures lasts for days, Davis said.During a seizure, oxygen to the brain is cut off. Warning signs are nausea, tremors,accelerated heartbeat, sweating and anxiety. Confusion, loss of balance and collapseare the most severe symptoms.Because of body type and other factors, Davis said, women are more susceptible toseizures than men.
  8. 8. "I wonder why they didnt rush her to the hospital," said Charlene Harris, 83, Harrismother-in-law. "They have dealt with alcoholics before, so it would seem that they wouldknow that the first days after are when people go through withdrawals. They shouldhave procedures because it seems like that could save lives."Flannerys family, likewise, is wondering if more could be done.Brian Drummy, a Bloomington lawyer retained by Flannerys mother, said a witness toldhim Flannery was handcuffed behind his back and shackled at the ankles.He said ambulance records showed there were impressions from the floor of the van onhis chest when he arrived at the jail, suggesting Flannery might have been lying downon his chest with his hands behind his back.He said Flannerys alcohol level was about 0.20 percent, which would seem to be lessthan a fatal dose. And he believed that "asphyxiation is definitely preventable.""No one deserves to die," Drummy said. He said he was considering filing a lawsuitagainst the sheriff or the city.Flannerys aunt, Mary Bell, told The Star that her nephew took medication for a nervouscondition and smoked marijuana occasionally. But, she said, he didnt use other drugsand was not violent."He was just a normal guy," Bell said, "no different than a lot of others who grow up onthe Southside."Flannery was buried in a plywood box at a Southside cemetery. His mother was notgiven the opportunity to see his body.Instead, the coroners office gave June Flannery a photocopy of his face after death. Init, Flannerys eyes are closed, and he has two large bruises high on each jawbone andone above his left eye.To learn more about alcohol withdrawal and the many symptoms that come along withit, visit here.