Eight Spokane County Jail guards were placed on paid administrative leave while investigators probed the death of a prisoner under their care, but they werent suspended for long. All were back at work within two weeks.
Benites Salmon Sichiro, 39, was booked into the jail on January 27, 2006 for three misdemeanor charges when he was kneed twice and shot multiple times with a Taser during three separate altercations with guards.
The fights began about 6:50 a.m. on January 29.
A nurse noticed that Sichiro was going through alcohol withdrawal and wanted him moved to a cell closer to her office. Sichiro was belligerent as guards approached him. Two Taser shots were fired, but the projectiles bounced off books and magazines that Sichiro had stuffed in his jail coveralls. The stun-gun was then placed directly against his body and fired again, but even that did little to slow him down.
He wasnt feeling the pain, one guard commented.
Guards eventually wrestled Sichiro into another cell and stuffed him under a bunk to allow them time to retreat. But when Sichiro stood on a desk and threatened to hurl himself head-first onto the concrete floor, the nurse then asked that he be placed in a restraint chair to keep him from hurting himself.
Guards used the Taser on Sichiro twice more before they could cuff him.
Sichiro continued to resist and bit one guard on the arm. The guard responded by kneeing Sichiro twice in the torso. Sichiro was then strapped into a restraint chair, lost consciousness and died. Attempts by the nurse to revive him were unsuccessful. An autopsy revealed that his death was caused by internal bleeding due to a lacerated liver.
According to Sheriff Mark K. Sterk, based on Mr. Sichiro's behavior and the fact that he was fighting with them very, very violently, the amount of force used was appropriate. The deputy used two knee strikes to distract the inmate long enough for him to get his arm out of Mr. Sichiro's mouth. We know that those knee strikes did occur during that altercation. We dont know that they were the cause of the injuries that caused his death.
Sheriff Sterk also noted that Sichiro was injured before he was taken into custody. Booking photos show Sichiro with a black eye, bruises, swelling and abrasions to his face, lip and neck. Abrasions were also found around his groin area.
Sichiro's nephew, Katamichey Rudolph, told police that his uncle had been in a fight on January 25, but other than scrapes and bruises he seemed fine. Rudolph said the fight was over some stolen belongings.
But police suspect that Sichiro may have been assaulted by someone connected to a sexual assault complaint alleging that he had had inappropriate behavior with a 12-year-old girl. She looks older than me, but the investigator told us shes only 12, said Sisi Rudolph, Katamicheys wife.
Sheriff Sterk stated, Were concerned that if he was injured prior to being booked into jail we may have some kind of a homicide that we need to be looking at.
Perspective depends upon the position of the observer. From the vantage point of the victim it should be observed that Sichiro was arrested for criminal trespass, obstruction of justice and fourth degree assault. All of which are misdemeanors; none carry the death penalty. Yet he died after spending two days in jail.
So whether Sichiro was fatally injured prior to being booked or after he was in custody, some would argue that there is still some kind of a homicide that we need to be looking at a distinction that Sheriff Sterk failed to make.
As of October 2006, prosecutors were still reviewing the circumstances surrounding Sichiro's death, despite having received a comprehensive report from investigators in April. No charges have been filed.
Sources: Associated Press, KXLY.com, KREM.com
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