Cobb reports 7 deaths in its jail in the past year

A file photo of the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

A file photo of the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

An inmate at the Cobb County Jail has become the seventh person to die in custody there within a 12-month period.

Christopher Lawrence Hart of Marietta experienced a "medical emergency believed to be related to preexisting conditions" Saturday afternoon while at the jail, said Cobb County Sheriff's Office spokesman Glenn Daniel.

Hart is the latest in a series of deaths inside the jail operated by the Cobb sheriff’s office. Also on Monday, Cobb officials disclosed a previously unreported death that occurred over the summer.

The jail deaths have also prompted local activists to call for Sheriff Neil Warren to improve conditions at the facility and hire more staff. Daniel said the department disputes reports that the jail is understaffed. As of Oct. 14, the agency had 315 filled deputy sheriff positions and 75 vacancies. It isn’t clear how many deputies are needed to operate the jail.

“Our employees are doing a tremendous job providing a safe and secure facility for the 25,000 individuals that come into in our custody each year,” he said.

In Hart’s case, Daniel said first aid was provided by jail medical staff, and Hart was taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital Saturday. The Sheriff’s Office contacted Hart’s family, who was with him when he died Sunday morning, Daniel added.

Hart, 45, was booked into the jail Thursday after he was charged by Cobb police with probation violation, a charge that does not come with an opportunity to be released on bond.

“Ordinarily the Sheriff’s Office seeks to release low-risk inmates suffering from serious preexisting health conditions, but were unable to in this case due to Hart’s no-bond status,” the agency said in a statement.

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The sheriff’s office said more details about the circumstances of Hart’s death will be released once the Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office determines a cause of death.

In a list of deaths at the jail, a previously unpublicized death was included. Steven Davis was in custody at the Cobb jail when he experienced a “medical emergency” and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital where he died June 8. His age and the reason he was being held in jail were not made available by sheriff’s officials on Monday.

Davis’s death is under investigation by the Cobb Medical Examiner’s Office, and Daniel said the department is unable to provide any more details until the investigation is finished.

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Of the seven who have died at the jail, a medical emergency is the most commonly cited cause. Only one of the deaths was declared a suicide. Besides Hart and Davis, five other Cobb jail inmate deaths have been reported in the past year:

•William Kocour, 63, died Sept. 10 after suffering a medical condition that required him to be hospitalized. Koncour was transferred to hospice care where he died, Daniel said. The investigation remains active.

•Bradley Emory, 33, was found unresponsive in the shower with a sheet around his neck March 10, according to a report from the Cobb County Medical Examiner's Office. The county medical examiner ruled Emory's death a suicide.

•Jessie Myles, 31, died Feb. 25, three days after he was arrested by Marietta police for drug possession. Myles suffered an unexplained medical event and was taken to Kennestone Hospital where he was pronounced dead. A Cobb County Medical Examiner's report declared the death an accidental overdose. The report said Myles was captured on video taking a baggie from his pocket and ingesting it while he was being driven to the jail in a police car. While in a holding cell, he "appeared normal for a few hours," but suddenly began displaying "seizure-like activity."

•Reginald Wilson, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, died of dehydration Dec. 29, 2018, after nine days in the jail. After he was booked into the jail Dec. 20, Wilson displayed abnormal behavior and was transferred to solitary confinement. A Medical Examiner's report states Wilson was given food and beverage, but did not drink enough liquid. He was later found unresponsive in his cell and declared dead.

The Cobb sheriff’s office currently has about 2,100 inmates housed at the jail. It receives and releases about 25,000 people per year, Daniel said.

Asked whether the Sheriff's Office has changed any procedures in the wake of the deaths, Daniel said,"Within that population are people with a variety of preexisting medical conditions and as well as mental health conditions. We provide initial health screening as well as ongoing medical treatment through third-party healthcare providers." 

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