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Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner James R. Gill, MD, has determined that the March 25 untimely death of a Garner Correctional Institution inmate, who was engaged in a struggle with prison staffers, was a homicide.
A spokesman for the chief state medical examiner’s office said June 18 that an autopsy determined that inmate J’Allen Jones, 31, experienced a sudden death during a struggle and restraint with chest compression, plus pepper spray exposure in a person with hypertension and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Pepper spray is an aerosol-based disabling weapon derived from cayenne peppers, which causes the eyes to tear and interferes with breathing. Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, also known as hardening of the arteries, results from the deposition of fat on the inner walls of blood vessels.
State police are investigating the death at the high-security prison for males at 50 Nunnawauk Road.
Asked to comment on the results of the autopsy, state police spokeswoman Trooper Kelly Grant simply said June 18, “The incident remains under investigation.”
Karen Martucci, DOC’s director of external affairs, said June 19, “We made a formal request for a copy of the medical examiner’s report, but we have not received one yet. When a cause of death is determined to be a homicide, that does not mean that there is a criminal element associated with the incident.”
Homicide is a broad term that may include murder and manslaughter, or instances of self-defense.
“It will be the state’s attorney’s responsibility to determine if a crime has occurred. We stand by our original statement that there were no immediate indications that excessive use of force was utilized. The Department of Correction’s Security Division will conduct an internal investigation at the conclusion of the state police investigation,” Ms Martucci said.
Jones, 31, was serving a ten-year sentence on convictions for charges including first-degree robbery stemming from an incident at a gas station/convenience store in Waterbury in August 2013.
According to a state Department of Correction (DOC) statement which was issued after the death, at about 11:05 am on March 25, Garner’s health services staff determined that Jones required treatment and some increased supervision at the prison’s in-patient mental health unit. Garner is the state prison that specializes in providing acute mental health care to state prison inmates.
“During escort and placement into [the unit], inmate Jones became noncompliant and combative with staff, and then became nonresponsive. Life-saving measures were immediately initiated and Jones was transported via ambulance to a community hospital, where he was declared deceased at approximately 12:25 pm,” according to DOC.
In that March statement, DOC Commissioner Scott Semple said, “The death of an individual under the care and custody of the Department of Correction is a very serious matter, and we are fully committed to cooperating with external law enforcement.”
The commissioner added then, “There are no immediate indications suggesting that excessive force was utilized. However, we are in the infancy stage of an active investigation and will respond swiftly and accordingly to any determinations contrary to the initial findings presented.”
Jones, from Atlanta, Ga., had been incarcerated since September 2014. He was sentenced in May 2015.
The Chief State’s Attorney’s office is participating in the investigation into Jones’ death.