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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Police, Spokane County Jail staff won’t be charged in May death

Police and jail staff who transported and booked a 37-year-old man into the Spokane County Jail will not be criminally charged in connection with his death, the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office said Monday.

Lorenzo Hayes was taken to the jail in May on suspicion he illegally possessed a weapon and was violating a no-contact order. He choked to death on his own vomit while being booked. Investigators ruled his death a homicide, but prosecutors determined officers and jail staff “acted without malice, or evil intent,” according to a county news release.

The events leading to Hayes’ death were captured on a surveillance camera at the jail. According to investigators, Hayes acted erratically during the patrol car ride to the jail and refused to enter the booking area. Officers put him on the floor to search him, according to the news release. When they sat him up in a restraint chair for a medical evaluation, he became unresponsive and was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead later that day, the news release said.

Methamphetamine was found in Hayes’ system, according to the Spokane County medical examiner.

Hayes’ family filed a $6.5 million wrongful death claim against the county in August and a civil lawsuit in October, after 60 days without a settlement.

Hayes’ death on May 13 was one of four fatalities at the jail between May and July, prompting calls for a federal investigation by the Spokane Human Rights Commission.

The county recently avoided having to pay an $8 million judgment to the family of Jessica Alvarado, a woman who died at the jail in August 2012 in similar circumstances to Hayes’ case, following a ruling from a Spokane judge last week.

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