Two veteran detention officers at the Wake County Detention Center were fired last week during an investigation into the apparent suicide of an 18-year-old inmate, Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Monday.
Harrison said he could not specify why the two officers were dismissed because the internal investigation isn’t complete, but he said it was related to his supervision policy for inmates who are in need of a psychiatric evaluation. Those inmates are required to be checked at least four times an hour, Harrison said.
The two officers are Steven McKoy, an employee since 2012, and Jowanna Mitchell, who was hired in 2003, Harrison said. They were dismissed shortly after Jose Humberto Lara-Pineda was found hanging in a cell in the jail’s intake area. Efforts to revive him at the jail and at WakeMed were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at the hospital the next day.
Raleigh police had charged Lara-Pineda on Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of Fredys Odilo Cid Ramos, who was found off a greenway trail in a wooded area off Calumet Drive. Police determined Ramos, 28, had been strangled.
During Lara-Pineda’s processing at the jail, a nurse ordered that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation, Harrison said. Lara-Pineda was placed in a holding cell while he waited.
State regulations require inmates be monitored at least twice an hour, but if they are considered to be at risk of suicide the monitoring increases to four times an hour. Harrison said that policy pertains to monitoring inmates after they are processed, but he has an internal policy that requires four-times-an-hour monitoring during processing if a nurse determines a psychiatric evaluation is needed.
Harrison said the cause of death is under investigation, but Lara-Pineda may have used his shirt to hang himself.