No Charges Against Jail Staff in 2010 Inmate Suicide

A mentally ill San Clemente man strangled himself in Orange County Sheriff's Department custody after being arrested for shoplifting in Mission Viejo.

The Orange County District Attorney won't charge police deputies or the OC Jail's mental health staffers in the 2010 suicide of a mentally ill San Clemente teen in their custody.

"Close review of the records reveals no deficiency in compliance" with required observation standards in the case of inmate Taylor Lang Hart, 19, of San Clemente, DA investigators state in a report released Wednesday.

During five days in jail, Hart was twice ordered on and off of special "safety gown" status, a procedure used in jail to protect inmates from harming themselves or others. He was not on "safety gown" status when he killed himself, according to the report.

The letter doesn't address whether employees or the Orange County Sheriff's Department are liable for civil damages, but the document states at one point that mental health staff and sheriff's deputies went beyond their duty for basic care in handling the inmate leading up to his suicide.

On Aug. 7, 2010, Hart was arrested for allegedly stealing clothes from Nordstrom and punching a security guard as he ran off, the report states. He was booked into the Santa Ana Inmate Reception Center Center that evening, after treatment at Mission Hospital for dehydration and cuts, according to the DA's report.

Between 12:07 a.m. and 12:25 a.m. Aug. 13, Hart stripped naked in his cell, wet a bedsheet, wrapped it twice around his throat and tied it in a hitch knot, strangling himself in his bed, the report says.

Hart displayed "bizarre behavior" and appeared to be hallucinating while in jail, the report said.

The report states Hart had been under close medical care for mental health problems. His mother, interviewed by DA investigators, said he had a history of being bi-polar and schizophrenic, and was prone to psychotic episodes when on any kind of illegal drugs.

He had been prescribed three types of medications for his conditions and been hospitalized for mental health evaluation six or seven times in the year before his arrest, his mother told investigators.

When Hart entered custody Aug. 7, he stated he wasn't on medications, but requested to start medication for bipolar disorder. To stabilize his mood, two different doctors prescribed him three types of medication, after an observation period, while in jail: Seroquel, Zyprexa and Depacote.

He was referred to Correctional Mental Health, where records indicate he was aggressive to staff.

Initially staffers put him on "safety gown" status, meaning he was issued only a mattress and a one-piece jail jumpsuit—no bedding or other loose items he could use to hurt himself were allowed. This status also means the inmate is confined to his cell without visitation.

On Aug. 8, Dr. Ebtesam Khaled deemed Hart fit for regular housing, but a nurse Aug. 9 reevaluated him before he was set to enter regular housing. Hart reportedly told the nurse, "I'm not doing very well. If I'm not on medication, I may hurt someone."

The nurse raised his concern with another staff doctor, who put Hart back on safety gown status. Dr. Kahled prescribed him mood stabilizers that evening.

Over the next few days of observation, the report states, Hart seemed to have calmed down with the prescription of his medication, and he was given bedding and a towel in response to his improved condition.

At no time, the DA's report states, did Hart say to anyone he might hurt or kill himself or had tried in the past. There was no note in his cell or anything else to indicate he intended to commit suicide, the report states.


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