The public in Deschutes County is entitled to answers about the December night a 31-year-old inmate from Bend died in the county jail.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has provided some answers, but there is an important piece missing: the videotape.

The tape was released by the sheriff’s office to Jennifer Coughlin, an attorney in Bend. She was not representing anyone involved in the case at that time.

But when The Bulletin and KTVZ requested the tape, the requests were denied. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel is reviewing the tape before it can be released.

Why the different standard?

Darryl Nakahira, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office counsel, said he should have told Coughlin she had to wait for the district attorney to review the tape, too, but did not.

Whatever happened, it’s important that the tape be released to the public now.

The cause of death of Edwin Burl Mays is not so much in question. The tape may provide a picture of the sequence of events.

What killed Mays was a methamphetamine overdose, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office said a medical examiners report showed he had a high level of methamphetamine in his blood.

Mays was booked into the jail at about 5:40 p.m. He had been arrested on suspicion of interfering with and providing false information to a police officer, menacing, possession of heroin and a parole violation. Mays showed signs of medical distress at about 9 p.m., the sheriff’s office said, as reported in The Bulletin. Paramedics from Bend responded and tried to save him. He died at the jail.

We don’t know what the videotape will and won’t reveal. But anytime someone dies in custody, there must be a complete public review of what happened.

Transparency has been a stated priority for Hummel and the sheriff’s office. Now is an important time for them to live up to those pledges.

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