Four Deschutes County sheriff’s employees were disciplined after the death of an inmate in the county jail, including two supervisors who were demoted, a sheriff’s official said Thursday.
Edwin Burl Mays, 31, died of a methamphetamine overdose in the jail Dec. 14.
Sheriff’s Counsel Darryl Nakahira wrote in an email Thursday that the four are named as defendants in a $10.7 million lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the Mays family late last month.
Video of Mays’ final hours, released to The Bulletin in March, shows sheriff’s deputies mocking Mays while he behaved erratically in a holding cell in the booking area of the jail.
The Oregon Department of Justice is investigating Mays’ death at the request of Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel.
Of the four employees who were disciplined, two were supervisors who were demoted, Nakahira wrote. He said he could not share further information about the action, nor the names of the deputies , citing Oregon public records law.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed May 26 on behalf of Mays’ father, Edwin Mays Jr., names two sergeants, Tedd Morris and Brian Bishop, as defendants. The lawsuit also names Deschutes County, Sheriff Larry Blanton and seven deputies.
The lawsuit asserts Morris and Bishop failed to properly supervise deputies the night Mays died, resulting in abuse, neglect and ultimately, the man’s death. Mays’ father, represented by attorneys Jennifer Coughlin and Michelle Burrows, also claims that the supervisors “permitted a culture of unconstitutional treatment of detainees” in the jail.
“I certainly have a great deal of empathy for their families,” said Coughlin of the sheriff’s employees on Thursday. “And I am sure they are very regretful of their actions.”
According to the collective bargaining agreement reached between the county and the sheriff’s employees association, disciplinary action such as demotion must have “just cause.”
Conduct reflecting discredit upon the sheriff’s office or that hinders “county performance” is considered reason for disciplinary action.
Deschutes County Counsel Dave Doyle said Thursday the county’s defense preparation for the lawsuit is in a holding pattern until the state’s investigation is complete.
Central Oregon’s major crimes team did an initial inquiry right after Mays’ death. The sheriff’s office was the lead agency as part of the team’s regular rotation.
— Reporter: 541-383-0376,