BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office continues to wait for the results of a federal investigation into the death of an inmate, last year. Sheriff Larry Blanton tells KBND his agency is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice.
"We’ve delivered some documents after being asked to do so from DOJ, and have talked with an investigator about some of the issues there," Blanton says. "But as far as a timeline, I’m not really sure when we’ll receive a report from that -- hopefully soon."
Edwin Mays died of a methamphetamine overdose at the Deschutes County Jail in December. Sheriff Blanton says that while his death is tragic, it’s a symptom of a greater problem.
"Our corrections staff talked with inmates that we brought in and asked them things we ask everybody: ‘Is there something we need to know?' 'Have you ingested something, or is there something in your body we need to help you with?’" Blanton says. "In 2014 alone, we had 13 people say, ‘Yeah, I have ingested something,’ or ‘I need help with something.’ We transported those people to the hospital. All of those people received medical attention, up to and including surgery."
Blanton says when Mays was asked during booking, he denied taking any drugs. The sheriff says Mays likely utilized a practice commonly known as “packing” or “stuffing," when inmates hide drugs inside the body to try and retrieve later.
The Mays family has maintained that the 31-year-old did not receive timely medical care, contributing to his death. Jail surveillance footage from December 14, 2014, shows deputies watching a football game and mocking the inmate’s behavior prior to his death.
Sheriff Blanton says, while it’s not unusual for a TV to be on to provide “white noise” for inmates, deputies are not supposed to be distracted by it. "First of all, there’s no excuse for that, it’s unacceptable," Blanton says. "I’ve taken care of discipline issues relating to that. I accept full responsibility for that, that’s not acceptable. I have dealt with that issue. That will not happen again."
Blanton would not elaborate on what disciplinary actions were taken, citing the ongoing DOJ investigation. Blanton contends, however, that deputies made every effort to provide life-saving efforts to Mays.