OLEAN — A man who apparently hanged himself in an Olean Police Department jail cell last week has died.
The 31-year-old Allegany man died Saturday at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo — six days after he was discovered “hanging from his cell bars,” according to a June 11 Olean police incident report.
Olean Police Chief Jeff Rowley declined to comment.
“At this time, we’re conducting an investigation into the unfortunate incident that occurred in our cell block, and because the investigation is ongoing I do not have any further comment,” he told the Olean Times Herald.
The man, who the Times Herald is not naming because he apparently completed suicide, was charged in the early morning hours of June 11 with driving while intoxicated and first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation, both class E felonies; as well as driving without an interlock device, drinking in a motor vehicle and driving without a license.
He was discovered hanging in his cell at 12:47 p.m. on June 11, according to the report. The Olean Fire Department treated the man and then transported him to Olean General Hospital. By the next day the man had been taken via Mercy Flight to ECMC. He was in critical condition the night of June 12, according to ECMC medical intensive care unit staff.
The New York State Commission of Correction, which investigates deaths in jails and prisons around the state, could not be reached by press time.
The commission in 2004 ordered the City of Olean to change its jail policies after it had two suicides within a year’s time. Those two deaths, which occurred in 2002 and 2003, also involved men hanging themselves after drunk driving arrests.
The commission required the city to train dispatchers to cut down people who have hanged themselves and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, after city policy previously required dispatchers to call police officers and ask them to return to the station during emergencies. According to the commission’s report, dispatchers said they were told to never enter a prisoner’s cell due to potential danger to themselves.
The commission also ordered Olean police to develop a comprehensive policy on prisoner supervision and develop a policy for responding to suicide and suicide attempts at the jail. It also recommended all dispatchers and police undergo a suicide prevention screening course.
Commission of Correction officials at that time said the city would face penalties if it did not comply with their recommendations.
According to police records, the man who died Saturday was arrested several times during at least the last six years, including for charges of robbery, criminal possession of a weapon, harassment and menacing, as well as a prior drunk driving charge.
In January he was sentenced to 18 months to three years in state prison for third-degree attempted burglary, a class E felony. According to authorities, the man broke into the SPCA in Cattaraugus County after it was closed and took a dog.
The Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s Office could not be reached by press time to answer why the man was not serving his prison term at the time of his June 11 arrest.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)