Harris County jail officers stop suicide attempt

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Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman credits a team of officers inside the Harris County Jail with stopping a 19-year-old inmate from killing himself Tuesday night. (KTRK)

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman credits a team of officers inside the Harris County Jail with stopping a 19-year-old inmate from killing himself Tuesday night.

In video exclusively released to abc13, the young man can be seen tying one end of a noose to a second floor railing, slipping the loop around his neck and dropping over the edge.

As detention officer Herbert Johnson approached him, Johnson tells us he told the inmate, "You don't want to do this." Detention Deputy Michael Thomas tells us he heard the inmate say, "Let me go I don't want to be here. I just want to end it."

They tell abc13 training taught them to approach slowly and calmly instead of rushing towards the man. "You don't want to rush to a person who is trying to commit suicide," Detention Deputy Michael Thomas told abc13. "It could make them jump faster or end their life sooner. You kind of want to ease to them ... but there wasn't time to talk."

As officers grabbed the man, they tell us the inmate let go of the railing, trying to use his body weight to get officers to drop him. They didn't. As more help arrived, they were able to pull the man to safety. They took him for immediate mental health treatment.

The sheriff's office did not identify the inmate per protocol, but did tell us he has been at the jail since December 2, 2015. He had been screened for suicide warning signs and mental health issues, but did not show any signs of mental illness or medical issues when he was booked. We're told his discipline record is clean. He was facing an aggravated robbery charge.

The inmate is only allowed out of his cell for one hour of recreation time inside the two-story pod of approximately 20 cells. He is alone during that time. Watching from a control center overlooking the pod, detention officers saw warning signs of mental health distress and called for help. As that help was arriving, the inmate pulled the noose from his waistband. We're told he made it from his bedsheet.

Sheriff Hickman credits enhanced training he implemented for spotting an early warning sign that something was out of the ordinary Tuesday night. "A number of things could have gone badly," Hickman told abc13 from his office Friday afternoon. "The more we train to respond to these situations more appropriately hopefully we will have better outcomes every time."

National statistics from the Marshall Project suggest the national average for jail suicides is 46 per 100,000 inmates. Harris County's is less than a third of that. In fact, the Harris County jail has had just 13 suicides since 2006, officials say. Sheriff Hickman told us there are roughly two attempts a week inside the Harris County jail.

Detention Deputy Thomas was proud to be a part of the team Tuesday night, "I was happy," he told us from inside the jail. "Saving a life is what it is all about."

Related Topics:
Ted Oberg Investigatesharris county sheriffs officesuicidemental healthjailHarris County
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