Curran: It's what I didn't see on video that prompted changes after inmate death in Lake Co. jail
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said he moved swiftly to make administrative changes at Lake County jail -- not because of what he saw on video but rather because of what he didn't see from officers after a Waukegan man was found unresponsive in his maximum-security jail cell in mid-September.
The video shows officers did not move with a sense of urgency or administer any care for about seven minutes Sept. 19 after finding 32-year-old Edward Robinson III on the floor of his cell in the jail's administrative segregation unit, Curran said Wednesday during a news conference in Libertyville.
The video footage, released to the media, was from a camera outside Robinson's cell but inside a pod of cells where Robinson was housed.
After finding Robinson on the floor at 11:07 a.m., one officer makes a radio call while another leaves and then returns with a bottle of cleaning solution, the video shows. During the next several minutes, other guards come and go from the pod before a trained medical staff member arrives about 11:14 a.m. The video ends when staff members remove Robinson from his cell and begin lifesaving measures.
It didn't show officers checking Robinson's pulse or beginning lifesaving measures before a medical staff member arrived, Curran said.
"We are not perfect, but we do hold people accountable," he said during the news conference.
In a statement released Wednesday, Robinson's family said he was a beautiful person who had a diagnosed mental illness and was in need of treatment. "He did not need to be in jail, he needed to be in a hospital. Instead, the Sheriff's department locked him up like an animal. When he was in distress, they ignored him as he lay dying in a cell," the statement said.
In a separate statement, the family's attorney, Larry Rogers, Jr., said the way Robinson's medical needs were ignored was "inhumane."
Both statements call for all sheriff's deputies and medical personnel involved in the case to be fired immediately.
To date, Jail Chief Dave Wathen and Deputy Chief Ted Uchiek have been demoted, and a lieutenant and sergeant were placed on administrative leave. Interim Chief Bill Kinville was placed in charge of the jail. Curran said a nationwide search for a new jail chief will begin after the Nov. 6 election.
Curran said the death remains under investigation internally and by the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force. Those investigations limit the information he can release to the public, he said.
Lake County coroner officials said the cause of death remains unknown and officials are awaiting medical and toxicology results.
Robinson was held in the jail on felony charges since July after a judge determined he was mentally unfit to stand trial. He was in the maximum-security area because of disruptive behavior and threats to harm other inmates, authorities said.
During the news conference, Curran released a timeline of events before and shortly after Robinson was found unresponsive.
At 6:30 a.m., guards told employees of Armor Medical -- the contracted jail medical staff -- that Robinson seemed lethargic and requested that a medical staff member check his condition, Curran said. The medical staff member arrived after 9 a.m. for a review, but Curran said the report that was filed is part of the overall investigation and could not be released.
Officers walked past Robinson's cell every half-hour before and after the medical check until they brought Robinson a lunch about 11 a.m. and found him unresponsive. There was no change in Robinson's condition during those checks, Curran said.
Officers called for a medical emergency when they saw Robinson on the floor, Curran said. The call brought in other officers and a medical staff member, who performed CPR and used an AED on Robinson until paramedics arrived. Paramedics took Robinson to Vista East Hospital in Waukegan, where he died.
Robinson's mother, Sandra Raftie, told ABC 7 Chicago she was initially told her son had killed himself but later learned she was given false information.
Wednesday, Curran initially said Robinson's death was not suicide, but he later said the coroner's office has not completely ruled it out. However, authorities said, no signs of trauma were discovered on Robinson's body.