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Prosecutor finds wrongdoing but no criminal action in death of mentally ill Bannock County inmate

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Details of this story may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

POCATELLO — A special prosecutor investigating a man’s death in the Bannock County Jail in 2018 has determined no crimes were committed.

In a letter to Idaho Attorney General Chief Investigator Michael Steen describing his investigation into the death of Lance Quick, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh says there were lapses in protocol by the jail staff and medical personnel, but those lapses do not constitute criminal action.

“I have concluded that the conduct of the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office employees contributed in significant ways to the death of Mr. Quick,” McHugh writes. “However, I decline to pursue criminal charges in the matter because there was insufficient evidence of criminal conduct.”

READ THE LETTER | See what the special prosecutor had to say about the circumstances of Lance Quick’s death

In considering potential charges, McHugh says in the letter that only this particular incarceration — a Dec. 8, 2018, misdemeanor driving under the influence arrest — was considered. McHugh also says that Quick’s condition before the arrest was also deemed irrelevant because the jail was responsible regardless of any prior condition.

Police reports show that during the 2018 incident that led to his arrest, Quick had denied consuming alcohol, a later proved him correct, as he had a 0.00% blood-alcohol content. But he did test positive for THC, and his family later confirmed that he did occasionally consume THC gummies. He also told police at the time that he was taking Lithium and Lamictal as a treatment for his bipolar disorder.

Quick had also been diagnosed with PTSD.

McHugh’s investigative report shows Quick’s mental illness rapidly deteriorated while he was in jail. He says he believes that the absence of the jail’s command staff contributed to the mishandling of Quick’s mental state. Then-Sheriff Lorin Nielsen and other commanding officers were out of town for a conference. Sergeants were in charge of operations during this period.

RELATED | Parents file complaint after mentally ill son dies in jail, attorney calls it ‘the most appalling case I’ve ever seen’

The lack of commanding officers also resulted in communication breakdowns, McHugh says.

At the time of his arrest, Quick was not booked into Bannock County Jail. Investigation into the case showed that he was being uncooperative during the process, and was put into a holding cell to calm down. It wasn’t until later that he was partially booked and medically cleared by a nurse.

In the report that accompanies his letter, McHugh describes at length what Quick’s final days inside that cell were like.

The cell was a bare 6-foot by 10-foot room with no sink, toilet or bed. There was just a hole in the center used for human waste. Cells like these are typically used for intoxicated individuals to sober up or calm down.

But Quick wasn’t intoxicated. His family believes he was having what they called “manic episodes.”

During the six days he was in the cell, Quick stopped eating and drinking, at one point missing six consecutive meals, according to McHugh. It appears Quick missed 10 meals in total, but the jail did not keep records of every meal, which McHugh says contributed to the problem.

Instead of eating, Quick would sometimes rub the food on his body. He dug his feces out of the cell hole and threw them around the room. He is described as going from clothed to unclothed continuously and was covered in his own excrement. All the while, Quick continued to get weaker.

security camera footage
Disturbing photos from the jail security camera show Quick spreading food all over his body, stripping naked and rolling on the floor. | File photo

At one point, a deputy is reported to have told a nurse at the jail that Quick was exhibiting signs of withdrawals, but there is no documentation available to corroborate this. Quick’s family called the jail multiple times explaining Quick’s medical needs, but there is no evidence that he was provided his medication.

When Quick was removed from his cell and given access to a shower and clean clothes, a jail trustee was brought in to clean the cell. The trustee described the cell as having urine and feces “everywhere” and said it appeared Quick had been neglected.

A court-ordered designated examiner assigned to the case found that Quick was “mentally ill, gravely disabled and lacking the capacity to make informed decisions about treatment.”

As a result, Bannock County Jail staff contacted Portneuf Medical Center the evening of Dec. 12 requesting a bed in the mental health unit for Quick, but a bed was not available. The PMC mental health unit is equipped with 12 beds, according to the investigation, and at the time of the request, 16 patients were listed in the unit.

County prosecutors scheduled a hearing for Dec. 13 to determine if Quick should be committed for mental health assistance. However, transportation could not be arranged for Quick to get to the courthouse, so the hearing was moved to Dec. 14 at the jail. During this period, reports show Quick continued to be aggressive or uncooperative with jail staff and medical personnel.

At one point, the hospital informed the designated examiner that a bed had become available. However, due to a recent assault on an ER nurse by Quick, the hospital requested law enforcement presence during the patient intake process.

The examiner informed the jail, but Quick was never transported to the hospital.

Quick continued not eating or drinking on the night of Dec. 13 and the morning of Dec. 14. McHugh says there was a physical change in Quick at this time: His left leg appeared spotted, and his left foot and toes had become purple. He also began to show bruising, with some areas of skin becoming grayish-blue.

Quick is seen in video falling over, according to McHugh. He was also in constant motion while lying flat throughout the night.

At 10:23 a.m. on Dec. 14, a deputy is heard over the radio calling for assistance with life-saving measures. Quick was pronounced dead at the hospital.

An autopsy ordered by the Bingham County Coroner’s Office found the cause of death as starvation and dehydration.

In his letter to Steen, McHugh sites lack of communication between jail staff and medical personnel and poor documentation as contributing causes to Quick’s death. Several nurses responsible for the care of inmates were not even aware of Quick’s incarceration.

“For a person to be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the state must prove that the conduct was such that an ordinary person would anticipate that death might occur under the circumstances,” McHugh writes.

McHugh does not believe that proof was evident, and he writes that “there is no individual who is solely responsible for Mr. Quick’s death.”

“Please do not construe my decisions to be an endorsement of what happened in this case,” McHugh says in his letter. “A man with compromised mental capacity died while in the care of the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office. Reading the reports that related to Quick’s physical and mental deterioration, and watching Quick’s deterioration on video during his incarceration was extremely difficult. My condolences go out to the friends and family of Lance Quick.”

Kim and Shauna Quick, the parents of the deceased, filed a tort claim against Bannock County and its sheriff’s office in June 2019. A report by the Idaho State Journal shows the family accepted a $2.1 million settlement offer from the county.

The parents and Bannock County Sheriff Tony Manu are expected to speak at a press conference Wednesday morning in Pocatello. That press conference will be streamed live by EastIdahoNews.com.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article did not report on a settlement between the Quick family and Bannock County. It has now been updated with that information. EastIdahoNews.com apologizes for the omission.

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