Island County, WA — Keaton Farris, 25, was accused of trying to cash a $355 check that wasn’t written out him. After failing to appear for his court date, he was arrested on March 20.
Farris had no prior criminal record but had struggled with a history of mental illness. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years ago, but had improved with medication, according to family members.
20 days after being taken into custody, on April 8, Farris was found dead in his cell.
Thursday, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown released a report apologizing for dehydrating and starving this young man to death.
“I am truly sorry for this tragic death,” Brown wrote in the report. “Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our inmates and staff and this report describes a systematic breakdown of policies, procedures and communication that led to this tragedy.”
“We are determined to do everything possible to minimize the chances of this kind of a tragedy from occurring in our jail ever again,” Brown said, adding he had met with the inmate’s father, Fred Farris, to express his condolences.
The “breakdown of policy” was actually a deliberate coverup of a man’s death in the custody of law enforcement.
Sorry, we killed your son.
In the days leading up Farris’ death, an incompetent system of brutality and neglect would come together to facilitate the killing of this young man.
Upon arriving at the Lynnwood jail, Farris pleaded with officers. He tried to tell them that he was off of his medication. His father even called in and told jail officials the same. However, these requests were ignored.
Instead of treating the obviously mentally ill and distressed man, Farris was met with force, tasers, and restraints. He would be transferred to multiple prisons as law enforcement officers refused to render aid.
He was moved to the Snohomish County Jail where staff made notes that Farris appeared “gravely disabled” and was displaying symptoms of psychosis, according to the Daily Herald.
He arrived in Skagit County in a restraint chair and refused to speak. Jail staff were advised that he had been shocked with an electric stun gun while at the jail in Everett.
Skagit County corrections officers restrained him and requested he be seen by a designated mental health professional. That never happened because the request was too vague and there was a question about who had jurisdiction over the man.
He ended up at the jail in Coupeville because San Juan County doesn’t have a jail and uses Island County’s under a contract. When San Juan County deputies arrived in Skagit County to take custody of Farris he refused their commands to stand up, and he began to ramble.
During his stay at Coupeville, Farris had completely broken down. He then flooded his jail cell after putting his pillow in the toilet.
Instead of seeing this as the obvious mental condition that it was, officers simply cut the water off to his cell.
Jail policy is to check on an inmate in Farris’ condition once an hour, and according to their logs, jail officials did check on Farris. However, according to the surveillance footage, which doesn’t lie, they never checked on him.
Two days later, Farris would be found dead in his cell at 12:40 AM on April 8.
Despite being responsible for a man’s death, no one at the jail was held criminally responsible.
The jail’s chief deputy was suspended for 30 days without pay, and a lieutenant was placed on paid leave. Also, two corrections deputies have resigned since being put on leave after the death, the Daily Herald of Everett reported.
According to the Associated Press,
The man’s parents were provided with a copy of the sheriff’s investigation and “the family is devastated,” their lawyer, Kathy Goater, told the Herald. “The report is shocking. There was a complete disregard for the health and safety of a mentally ill man.”
Goater said she and her colleague, Becky Roe, expect to file a lawsuit on behalf of the dead man’s parents and his estate. She called the death “completely preventable.”