Probe begins in death of stun-gunned inmate at Everett jail

EVERETT — An Everett-area man, 35, collapsed and died early Thursday while being booked into the Snohomish County Jail.

Now, an investigation is under way into whether his death was the result of being shocked with an electronic stun gun while in custody. The man’s name was not made public pending an autopsy and notification of his family.

The medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death.

Another investigation is being conducted by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team. The group of detectives is drawn from around the county to review cases where police have used potentially fatal force. It was not clear Thursday whether any corrections officers were placed on leave in connection with the incident.

The man had been arrested by Everett police. He was accused of obstruction and attempting to prowl a car. He reportedly struggled with officers. Obstruction is a misdemeanor but car prowling can be charged as a felony depending on the circumstances.

Once at the county jail, about 2:30 a.m., he continued to resist and was uncooperative, officials said. Jail medical staff were present. They tried to get the man to calm down and to monitor his vital signs, said Julie Moore, a spokeswoman for SMART.

In an attempt to gain compliance, jail staff shocked the man with an electronic stun gun, Moore said. The man reportedly continued to resist and was placed in a restraint chair. At that time, he became unresponsive, and life-saving measures were taken while 911 was called. Firefighters were unable to revive him.

It was not made clear Thursday how much time lapsed between the arrest and the death.

“We are still working on establishing the timeline,” Moore said.

Thursday marked the second death at the jail this year. In April, accused Cascade Mall shooter Arcan Cetin hanged himself in his cell. Cetin was the first detainee to die in the county lockup since 2014. A string of deaths in earlier years had led to a series of reforms by the sheriff’s office, which runs the jail.

Among the reforms have been adding more on-site nurses and changes to booking procedures to better screen people for medical and mental health concerns.

A stun gun is not designed for lethal force. However, people have died in the county in recent years after being shocked by police.

Thursday’s death appears similar to that of Bill Williams, who died in 2012 after being shocked twice as he struggled with corrections staff during booking.

Williams, 59, lived with mental illness. He’d been arrested for shoplifting a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and a six-pack of beer. An autopsy determined he died of a heart attack after the struggle led Williams to suffer from excited delirium, a form of mania that follows severe physical agitation. His death was ruled a homicide, though no charges were filed after prosecutors determined corrections officers had acted lawfully.

Williams’ family sued. Their lawyers argued, among other things, that he was not properly screened before booking and that corrections officers had used excessive force after needlessly escalating the confrontation. The county settled the case in June, agreeing to pay Williams’ family $600,000.

In September 2015, Cecil Lacy Jr., 50, suffered a heart attack during a confrontation with a sheriff’s deputy and two Tulalip tribal police officers. His family also has filed a lawsuit.

In November 2016, a 29-year-old man with mental illness died during a struggle with police at his home near Maltby. His death was ruled an accident. Heart trouble was a factor, along with schizophrenia, the confrontation with deputies and the use of an electronic stun gun, the medical examiner found.

SMART cases are forwarded to Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe, who determines whether the use of force was legally justified.

Reporters Eric Stevick and Scott North contributed to this story.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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