Lake County jail inmate deaths spark policy review by sheriff’s office

Lake County Sheriff’s officials said they have launched a review of procedures in the county jail in light of two recent inmate deaths.

Criminal charges will not be filed in the March 3 death of Eugene Gruber, 51, who suffered a spinal injury while in custody of the jail last fall.

Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Christen Bishop said a full investigation of Gruber’s interaction with correction officers had been conducted by her office.

“We reviewed all the documents and all the video that exists of Mr. Gruber’s time at the jail,” Bishop said. “We interviewed everyone who came in contact with him and found no evidence anyone at the jail acted in a criminal manner.”

Gruber, formerly of Grayslake, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct on Oct. 31 and reportedly was combative and uncooperative with officers at the jail.

The following day, he was taken to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, where he was ultimately diagnosed with a spinal injury.

He died March 3 at a rehabilitation hospital in Chicago.

Gruber’s death follows that of Lyvita Gomes, a Vernon Hills resident who died Jan. 3 after beginning a hunger strike at the jail.

Although no criminal investigation was conducted into Gomes’ death, Sheriff Mark Curran said an internal review of policies related to hunger strike situations would be conducted.

Wayne Hunter, sheriff’s chief of administration and acting jail superintendent, said a top-to-bottom review of jail operations is under way.

“We are looking at these incidents in the context of what we may need in terms of additional training or revised training for our officers,” Hunter said. “We also will be investigating the need for technology upgrades that could include additional cameras in some areas of the jail and possibly cameras worn by some of the officers.”

Hunter said sheriff’s officials would discuss the changes in jail operations at a future date.

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