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Inmate suicide leads county to end contract with transporter

December 22, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The southwest Missouri sheriff’s office has stopped doing business with a privately owned inmate transport company after an inmate fatally shot himself with an unsecured handgun.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office went so far as to file a probable cause statement against the guard who left the gun on the floorboard of an Inmate Services Corporation van, the Springfield News-Leader reports . But no charges were filed over the death of 50-year-old Dennis Shaner, who used the weapon to kill himself in May after the van stopped at the entrance of the county’s jail to drop off another inmate.

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott says he has contracted with another private transport company because of Shaner’s death.

When Shaner was led out of a Florida jail cell to be transported to the Taney County Jail earlier this year, he was dressed in a blue anti-suicide smock. His wrists and throat had fresh sutures, according to Justin Hayes, a Greene County inmate who was on the transport van at the time and who was allowed to go inside the Florida jail to use the bathroom while Shaner was being processed.

Hayes said that Shaner changed out of the smock and into regular clothes before he was handcuffed and led onto the transport van. According to Hayes, Shaner repeatedly and loudly talked about wanting to kill himself over the next three days as they zigzagged across the country, picking up and dropping off inmates.

“He said he wanted to die,” Hayes said in a jailhouse interview. “He said he didn’t want to live.”

Randy Dunn, who was picked up at a federal prison by the transport company two days after Shaner, also recalled the stitches and said during an interview with the News-Leader at the Christian County Jail that Shaner was determined to kill himself.

Documents obtained by the News-Leader from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office investigation into Shaner’s death confirm Hayes’ and Dunn’s description of Shaner’s recently slashed neck and arms.

Inmate Services Corporation president Randy Cagle said in May that the guards had no idea Shaner was suicidal. He said Shaner wouldn’t have been put in the van if they’d known because the company’s “protocol is to deny transport of any inmate designated to be currently or recently on suicide watch.”

“We were unaware that he was suicidal,” Cagle said in the email. “Medical information is provided prior to the custody exchange and his report did not disclose this.”

Cagle hasn’t responded to recent phone and email messages.

As is standard with inmate transport companies, guards are not allowed to bring weapons into the jails. Instead, there is a lock box in the sally port where guns must be placed. The guard told Greene County investigators that he owned the gun and was told by his boss that he was not supposed to carry a gun in the first place. The guard said he got the gun out of his vehicle before his shift began and attached it to his pants anyway, according to documents related to Shaner’s death investigation.

Dunn and Hayes said that the guard left the gun on the floorboard rather than walk to the lock box and secure the weapon properly.

Then, as Tyler escorted Hayes inside to be booked, Shaner began complaining about being sick and asked to be let out of the van to get some fresh air. Though he was handcuffed, Shaner was able to open the passenger door and grab the gun.

Dunn and Hayes both expressed anger that the gun wasn’t secured.

“If that guy would have been homicidal instead of suicidal,” Dunn said, “we would all be dead.”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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