February 25, 2013

Mother of man who died in jail says family wasn’t notified

By The Spokesman-Review
 

This photo of Chris Parker was posted to FaceBook. Parker, a 33-year-old diabetic, died Feb. 24, 2013 in the Spokane County Jail booking area following a confrontation with guards who described him as uncooperative.
(Full-size photo)

The Spokane County Medical Examiner today identified the man who died during booking Sunday at the Spokane County Jail, but listed both the cause and manner of death as pending further investigation.

Christopher J. Parker, 33, died after he called 911 early Sunday, saying he was diabetic and he had ingested methamphetamine. Spokane Police responded, had Parker checked out by medical technicians, and then booked him into jail on an outstanding arrest warrant.

Once transported to the jail, Parker reportedly became uncooperative and corrections deputies used a Taser to shock Parker and placed him in a restraint chair.

After he was restrained, deputies noticed he wasn’t breathing but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The Washington State Patrol is heading up the investigation under the region’s critical incident protocol.

Trooper Jeff Sevigney said the involved deputies have already been interviewed and investigators have obtained a copy of a video that apparently shows the interaction with Parker.

Sevigney said he was not prepared to name the deputies this early in the investigation.

Assistant Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said a paramedic truck responded to a call from Spokane Police at 3:38 a.m. for a possible overdose at 2121 W. 4th Ave.

“They did evaluate him for possible ingestion of an unknown substance,” Schaeffer said. “I know the paramedics who evaluated him didn’t feel as if he had signs or symptoms that required urgent transport to the hospital. At that point he was released into the care of the SPD.”

Crews were later called to the Spokane County Jail at 5:11 a.m. by corrections deputies asking for an ambulance for someone having a medical problem. “That call was upgraded at 5:22 a.m. to more critical call reporting that the patient was unconscious,” Schaeffer said.

At 5:55 a.m. the call came through that no patient transport was required.

Schaeffer said many of the people who were working Sunday won’t work again and be available for interviews until Wednesday, so he doesn’t have all the information that paramedics used to make their judgment that Parker didn’t require further medical attention.

It’s possible that he should have been transported to the hospital, Schaeffer said. “Looking through the retrospective glasses it’s easy to say yes.”

But each case is different, and “I don’t know what the dialogue was between the patient and the victim,” Schaeffer said. “If someone says they don’t want to go to the hospital and they are not exhibiting symptoms or signs… but it’s too early to say.”

He added, “If there is something here where we made a clinical judgment that was wrong … we will own it and make it better. We will not make excuses.”

Parker’s mother, Christina Higgins, who lives in Arkansas, said she was upset because family members weren’t immediately notified of Parker’s death.

Investigators didn’t return her call Sunday night, she said, and wouldn’t confirm the information for Parker’s father, who visited Spokane County Jail Sunday evening.

“There is no reason why they did not notify us. No reason whatsoever. I’m mad,” Higgins said.

She said she was told that the Washington State Patrol couldn’t speak for the Sheriff’s Office, but that WSP detectives were cleared to notify family members had they encountered any during their investigation.

Sevigney noted that Parker has a lengthy criminal history. He was arrested in 1998 after breaking a man’s arm and convicted of felony assault. He also has convictions for violating protection orders in 2004 and 2007.

As such, there were multiple entries in court records listing next-of-kin information. Sevigney said that information was forwarded to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office, which is in charge of family notification after a body has been transported there. “I hadn’t heard that someone actually went to the jail. I can’t comment on that,” Sevigney said.

Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment today.

Higgins said she got that notification a couple hours before a news release Monday announcing Parker’s identity.

“I just think that’s wrong. It’s been 36 hours. I could have headed out,” she said. “They just left me stranded with no answers with not even a confirmation it was my son.”

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