Lake County jail chief, top deputy demoted in wake of inmate's death
A pair of Lake County jail supervisors have been placed on leave and two top commanders were demoted Thursday, one day after a Park City man died after being found unresponsive in a maximum-security cell.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said he made changes to the jail's leadership structure after seeing a video of the incident and becoming concerned with the response of staff members and command officers.
A lieutenant and sergeant are on administrative leave, while Chief Dave Wathen and Deputy Chief Ted Uchiek were demoted, Curran said. An interim chief is in place and a nationwide search for a new jail chief will begin after the Nov. 6 election.
"I had been contemplating making changes in the jail but was planning to wait until after the election to do so," Curran said. "After seeing how the situation was handled, we decided a change was in order and we made it."
The 31-year-old Park City man was found unresponsive and alone in his jail cell shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, authorities said. He was treated with an automated external defibrillator before Waukegan paramedics arrived. He later was pronounced dead at Vista East Hospital in Waukegan.
Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper conducted an autopsy Thursday and expects to release the results, along with the man's identity, on Friday.
The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force is investigating the inmate's death, which is protocol.
The death already has become political fodder in the race for sheriff.
Curran's challenger, John Idleburg, emailed a statement Thursday criticizing the sheriff for attending a political function the same day the inmate was found unresponsive.
"It's concerning that Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who presumably was already made aware of the death, was smiling and shaking hands at a political event shortly after what happened," the 62-year-old Democrat from Zion Township wrote. "It appears he was playing politics instead of doing his job."
Curran, a 55-year-old Republican from Libertyville, said he was with Idleburg at a political endorsement interview with the Lake County Farm Bureau when he learned of the death.
"John is going to throw unfounded attacks at me, because that's all he has," Curran said. "He lacks the education, experience and management skill set to be sheriff."
Authorities say the man who died in the jail was being held on felony charges since July. A judge had determined he was mentally unfit to stand trial, but he remained in the jail while the Illinois Department of Human Services determined appropriate placement or treatment options, authorities said.
He was held in the jail's administrative segregation unit, a maximum-security area, because of his disruptive behavior and threats to harm other inmates, authorities said. That unit houses one inmate per cell.