Officer fired after inmate suicide
The Record-Eagle - 9/1/2017
Sept. 01--TRAVERSE CITY -- The slow release of information related to the death of an inmate found hanging from a noose in his cell at Grand Traverse County's jail continues to frustrate his family.
Alan Bradley Halloway, 39, of Grawn, hanged himself at about 9 p.m. on July 21 -- just minutes after officers delivered medication to his cell and two days after mental health professionals cleared him from suicide watch following a possible attempted drug overdose, said county Sheriff Tom Bensley.
His death prompted an investigation and sheriff's officials believe it could soon lead to a lawsuit. Bensley said one corrections officer resigned after the probe began. Another was fired after it was finished. Both the sheriff's department and Halloway's family have retained attorneys. And Bensley said he expects litigation.
Attorney Jesse Williams said he'll represent Halloway's parents in any future legal case.
"The Halloways want nothing more than to be told the truth," Williams said.
Bensley's department released limited details about the incident Wednesday night and declined to answer several questions Thursday. The release, however, provides the first detailed account of the events leading to Halloway's death since he was found hanging in his cell more than a month ago.
"Obviously this is not what we strive for at the jail," Bensley said. "In this situation, we probably didn't do a good enough job. ... I'm not making excuses. It's a difficult building to operate out of. I could list a number of excuses. We won't."
Deputies arrested Halloway at about 2 p.m. on July 18 after a brief standoff outside his Grawn home. They suspected he shot a man at Bay Hill Apartments and he was later charged with multiple felonies, including attempted murder. Halloway awaited a court hearing on a $1 million bond before his death.
Bensley said Halloway was initially placed on suicide watch after he told deputies he took 20 Valium prior to his arrest. He was taken to Munson Medical Center, cleared from treatment and booked into the county's jail later that evening. And he was released from suicide watch the next morning.
The heightened security of the watch requires inmates be held in a glass-walled area in a crowded section of the jail with officers checking in at least every 15 minutes. Bensley said Community Mental Health officials recommended Halloway be removed from observation and placed into a standard cell.
"We aren't psychiatrists," Bensley said. "We're corrections officers."
Calls to multiple CMH officials were not returned Thursday.
Bensley said corrections officers the evening of Halloway's death delivered medication but left him unattended for the next three hours -- a clear violation of jail protocol. Officers are typically required to check on inmates once every 59 minutes. Bensley said officers were doing "other duties" at the time.
"That cell check was not made," he said, noting investigators also explored whether an on-duty officer may have been reading a book when he should have been making rounds. "I can't say for sure. That was investigated. I'm not going to say 'yes' or 'no.' There was some mention of (book reading)."
Halloway fashioned a noose and hung himself less than two minutes after officers left his cell, Bensley said.
A "mission team" from the Michigan Sheriff's Association -- comprised of out-of-county sheriff's officials -- further investigated the death. One jail corrections officer resigned shortly after the investigation began. Another was fired after it was finished. Bensley said the officer's termination "wasn't solely because of this incident" but declined to provide further details.
He also declined to elaborate which rules were violated by which officers but noted investigators uncovered at least two policy violations. County Prosecutor Bob Cooney also is reviewing the investigative report for possible criminal charges, Bensley added.
Cooney said he hadn't yet seen the report.
Williams said Halloway's parents for weeks asked for information about the circumstances that led to their son's death to no avail. They instead learn updates about the situation from local news reports. Williams' request for investigative findings has not yet been returned, he added.
"Clearly there was some evidence of negligence on their part," Williams said, noting the Halloway family was unavailable for comment. "It's utterly distasteful. They could have come to us and relayed this information so they didn't have to find out in a public forum. It's completely unprofessional and purposeful. They're purposefully allowing information to leak out in a structured form."
Bensley said attorneys advised him to "shut up" and avoid specifics. A Freedom of Information request for investigative findings -- which Bensley promises will answer "all" questions and also carry a hefty price tag -- has not been returned nearly one month after it was filed by the Record-Eagle.
"We need to make sure we say things in the proper order and we don't say what we're not supposed to say," Bensley said.
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