YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – An internal affairs investigation into the suicide of an inmate at the Mahoning County Jail concluded that some procedures were not followed correctly but that the inmate was assigned to the appropriate pod.
The investigation was launched after Kevin Burkey, 50, was found dead in his cell Tuesday, Aug. 25. The Mahoning County Coroner ruled the cause of death as hanging.
The internal investigation reveals that Burkey, who had been treated and then arrested for theft of narcotics at St. Elizabeth Health Center on August 23, was taken to the Mahoning County Jail. During his incarceration, the report reveals that Burkey was examined and evaluated by medical staff and put in a medical unit where medication was administered and his blood pressure was taken at regular intervals.
On August 24, Burkey was taken to a pod where he was in a cell by himself. During that time, the report indicates that Burkey did not indicate that he was suffering from any mental condition until he told a relief deputy on the morning of Aug. 25 that he wanted to talk with a mental health professional. The deputy said Burkey told him that “No one knows what I am going through.”
The relief deputy informed Burkey that he needed to fill out a medical request form. An inmate in the cell next to Burkey told investigators that he filled out the form for Burkey because Burkey told him he couldn’t read or write. It was confirmed during the investigation that the inmate wrote on the medical slip, “I need to see mental health ASAP” and that the request was placed in a box for medical slips.
Investigators determined through jail documents and interviews with personnel, including Deputy Tyler Peters, who was assigned to the pod where Burkey was housed at the time of his death, that a visual head count was not conducted on the pod by Peters on Aug. 25 on at least two occasions and that Peters reported head count numbers from earlier counts that day.
The first infraction was at 11:45 a.m., prior to when Peters went on break. The second was at 12:30 p.m., when he returned. At 1 p.m., after the pod was unlocked, an inmate alerted Peters that something was wrong with Burkey.
Peters admitted to investigators that he not only failed to perform personal visual observations of his pod inmates, but that he also submitted to booking a mid-day head count, which was not an actual physical headcount.
Peter also admitted that he left his post for break without properly being relieved. Deputy Nicholas Argeras and Peters were to coordinate their break times and did not, leaving a post unmanned for a short period of time.
Deputy Peters and Argeras were both issued an Adverse Behavior Report for their infractions.
Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said that the procedure violations of the two deputies did not have a direct impact in Burkey’s death.