Sheriff releases statement in Sebastian County, Ark. jail death case

Sheriff releases statement in Sebastian County, Ark. jail death case

Sebastian County A black man who died in prison in 2021 now faces a federal lawsuit alleging he was neglected and malnourished while awaiting trial for a year.

Sebastian County Sheriff Hob Runyon responded to a civil lawsuit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in the August death of Larry Price Jr. 2021.

Price was in jail for more than a year and dropped from 185 to 120 pounds while awaiting trial, Runyon said. The coroner’s office said Price’s cause of death was covid-19.

The NAACP released the statement:Sebastian County, Ark. NAACP releases statement on 2021 inmate death

Runion released a video statement of the lawsuit against Sebastian County on Friday.

Runyon said in the video, “You all may have heard about the inmate who tragically died in our jail over a year ago. This is a tragic event and I understand how hard it is for a family to lose someone they love.” . “Even though this guy died a long time ago at a time when covid was killing so many people.”

Price was jailed in 2020 after he walked into the Fort Smith Police Department, pointed his trigger finger and squeezed it in a shooting gesture. He has been charged with making terroristic threats.

“It’s in the news now because a lawyer in Seattle, Washington is suing the taxpayers of Sebastian County,” Runyon said.

Seattle, Wash. attorney Eric Heupt is representing Price’s family, the plaintiff in the case.

“That lawyer made a lot of allegations and out-of-state reporters repeated those allegations as if they were all true. They weren’t,” Runyon said.

The federal lawsuit filed Friday alleges jail staff and the jail’s medical provider neglected Price.

Runyon said that Arkansas State Police and the Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney “have already determined that there was no criminal conduct.”

“I’m still looking into this matter because I make the safety of everyone at the jail a high priority. The people of the county deserve to know what happened. Here’s what we know so far.”

Runyon said Price was awaiting a mental health evaluation when he died.

“There is evidence that he was seriously mentally ill,” Runyon said.

Runyon claimed that Price sometimes ate from styrofoam trays served to him instead of food. Records show he lost about five pounds a month.

“Let me make one thing clear. Jail staff gave this inmate plenty of food and water every day. Jail medical staff had regular contact with him,” Runyon said.

Runyon said an autopsy showed the cause of death was COVID-19.

“We all want to know more about other factors that could have led to these tragic deaths,” Runyon said. “So we’re keeping an eye on the matter. We’re asking everyone without judgment until our review and the court case is complete.”

This article originally appeared in the Fort Smith Times Record: Case against Sebastian County addressed by Sheriff

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