A state investigation found no wrongdoing by Charleston police in the handling of a suicide at the city jail a year ago, recently released documents show.
Officers found Sean White, 40, hanging in his jail cell about two hours after his arrest April 1, 2007, a summary of the State Law Enforcement Division's findings says.
Police had responded to a domestic call from White's girlfriend's house in West Ashley. They took him into custody on traffic charges after stopping his car in a different neighborhood about 7:20 a.m.
White cooperated during the initial stop but tried to fight officers during the booking process at the Lockwood Boulevard jail, the report says. They put a mask on him so he wouldn't spit, removed his clothes and gave him a disposable jail suit. They removed his handcuffs and left him in a holding cell.
A jail matron saw him in the cell at 8:10 a.m. and between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m., the summary says. A few minutes before 9 a.m., she found him hanging by the disposable suit, which was tied around a cell bar. White was pronounced dead at Medical University Hospital, and the Charleston County Coroner's Office later ruled the death a suicide.
In a letter dated March 18, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson informed SLED that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by anybody involved in the case.
Charleston shut down its municipal jail several months after White's death. The agency still has cells to hold inmates during questioning.
Police Chief Greg Mullen said at the time that the closure already was under discussion the day of the incident. He said the move would free up officers and save money.
Across the country, 912 inmates died at local jails in 2000, and 1,056 died in 2005, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Suicide was the second-most-common cause of death, at 1,802 or 30.4 percent of 5,935 reported deaths in those six years, the figures show. Illness accounted for the most deaths — 2,764 or 46.6 percent of the total.