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Racine Co. Sheriff's Office: No new information on 2 jail deaths until investigation is complete

racine county jail
Posted at 8:58 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 22:00:15-04

RACINE — The Racine County Sheriff's Office says it will not be releasing any new information after two men died in custody at the office's jail in the last week. But the office is pushing back against the spread of misinformation on the deaths - specifically regarding a third death in custody.

The sheriff's officesaid in a statement Fridaythat they nor the county medical examiner's office have investigated a third death at the jail. They said they have investigated two deaths at the jail since the start of the year.

Ronquale Ditello-Scott Jr. and Malcolm I. James both died in their jail cells in the last week. Revelations regarding their deaths led to a protest outside the jailhouse on Thursday, where protestors called on the office to be transparent.

The office said Friday that they remain committed to long-term transparency. The issue in these two cases is that investigations and autopsies need to be concluded, the office said. The county's medical examiner says exams and toxicology work take two months to complete before they have the manner and cause of death.

The Kenosha County Sheriff's Office has been brought in to investigate, as is protocol in cases involving law enforcement departments in Wisconsin. Kenosha County medical examiners will conduct the autopsies.

Death of Ronquale Ditello-Scott Jr.

The Racine County Sheriff's Office said around 2:30 a.m. on May 29, deputies pulled over a man for swerving in and out of lanes. The man, Ditello-Scott Jr., told deputies he was swerving because of car troubles. The office says he then admitted to smoking marijuana two hours before.

In his vehicle, deputies say they found marijuana, drug paraphernalia and "open intoxicants." The office says he failed a field sobriety test and then took him into custody for a variety of charges, including operating a vehicle while impaired.

Ditello-Scott Jr. was brought to the hospital where he consented to a blood draw. He was then brought to the jail.

The office says Ditello-Scott Jr. was given basic necessities there and was allowed to go to sleep in a holding cell. Jail nursing staff checked on him around 7:00 a.m., reporting that he "was snoring and appeared to have a normal flesh tone."

Within one hour, the office says nursing staff checked on Ditello-Scott Jr. a second time, who was then in office's words “yellow in color and not breathing.” Medical staff provided emergency care, but he could not be revived. He was pronounced dead at the jail.

Death of Malcolm I. James

On the morning of the same day, around 3 a.m. on May 29, the Racine County Sheriff's Office took into custody Malcolm I. James on 14 counts of recklessly endangering safety and one count of arson to a building.

The office says because of a recent suicide attempt, James was placed on suicide close watch in a high visibility cell.

While in the cell, the office says James "engaged in multiple acts of self-harm where he would, amongst other acts, violently smash his head into a concrete wall."

James' self-harming behavior was serious enough the office says he was brought to the hospital, where he was medically treated. Medical staff at the hospital then cleared him to return to the jail, the office says.

Three days later, on June 1, the office says James again smashed his head into a concrete wall "so violently that it was audible to jail staff." When jail staff tried to evaluate James and prevent him from harming himself, the office says "he experienced a medical event which led to him becoming unresponsive."

Medical staff tried to provide care but James did not regain consciousness, and he was pronounced dead, the office says.

The investigation

The Kenosha County Sheriff's Office has been brought in to investigate each death. "The Racine County Sheriff’s Office does not want to interfere in these independent investigations conducted by a completely separate law enforcement agency," the office said.

The Racine County Sheriff's Office said in Friday's statement it will take time for the Kenosha County Sheriff's Office to review cameras placed throughout the jail. It will also take time to interview witnesses in the jail, and the hospital where both Ditello-Scott Jr. and James visited while in custody. Records will also be reviewed, among other sources of evidence.

At the conclusion of the investigation, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling will hold a press conference with the Kenosha County Sheriff's Office's findings.

“Until the process runs its logical course of determining the truth of what occurred in these cases, and until I am able to release the facts of what the truth is, we ask that people to remain patient and remain peaceful during these emotional times. I cannot request this enough, please remain calm and wait for the facts of these cases to be determined," said Schmaling in a statement.

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