Inmate who hanged self taken off life support; tribal member surrounded by family, friends

David J. Hales

SEATTLE — A Clallam County jail inmate who hanged himself March 31 was taken off life support Thursday at Harborview Medical Center while the Port Angeles Police Department continues a review of the circumstances surrounding his death.

Lower Elwha Klallam community member David L. Hales, 34, of Port Angeles had nine siblings and a 13-year-old son, lifelong friend Russ Connary said Saturday.

Connary said Hales was surrounded by friends and family when he was taken off life support.

“Everyone there was just singing and praying that there would be a miracle and he would wake up,” said Connary, a Port Angeles resident.

A service time and location will be announced, Connary said.

Until recently, Hales’ father, Donald, and mother, Darlene, were pastors of the Lower Elwha Assembly of God church on the reservation.

“He was just a spiritual church member his entire life,” Connary said.

Hales also was a talented musician and earlier this year was employed in the finishing department at Angeles Composite Technologies Inc. in Port Angeles, his friend added.

“We all truly believed there were two different sides to David,” Connary said.

Hales had been incarcerated for violating the conditions of his state Department of Corrections community custody on a heroin conviction, according to court records.

Connary said Hales, in jail since March 15, had no drugs in his system when he died, according to a Harborview toxicology report.

The Port Angeles Police Department is investigating the death, county Sheriff Bill Benedict said.

Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith said Saturday the investigation is ongoing but did not have further details.

Corrections deputies found Hales hanging by his jail overalls from a protective basket that encases the fire suppression system at 1:12 p.m. March 31 during a routine welfare check, jail Superintendent Ron Sukert said in an earlier interview.

Hales was transported to Olympic Medical Center and subsequently airlifted to Harborview.

Sukert said corrections deputies had checked on Hales at 12:20 p.m., when Hales received his noon meal, before doing so again at 1:12 p.m.

Deputies must have face-to-face contact with inmates at least once an hour, Benedict said Saturday.

Sukert said that because of behavioral issues, Hales was incarcerated in an administrative segregation cell, which he could leave for one hour a day.

Benedict said Hales was in segregation for “routine” infractions.

Only inmates in the jail’s crisis cells are monitored by cameras.

During routine checks, deputies open the cell door and “go eyes-on” the inmate to check their condition, Benedict said.

“He was not considered to be a threat to himself,” Benedict said.

“Our protocols are pretty much best practices and, for lack of a better term, kind of industry standard for that kind of situation.”

While the investigation into Hales’ death is not complete, Benedict said so far, he sees no reason to change the inmate-check protocol.

“We did follow the protocol, and at this point, it is adequate,” Benedict said.

Connary noted that it was more than 50 minutes that had elapsed between times that corrections deputies had checked on Hales.

“At the end of the day, this was something that he did to himself,” Connary said.

“The only thing is, could it have been stopped if he had been checked on sooner?

“You like to think your family and friends are safe if they are in jail.”

The last inmate to strangle himself to death at the Clallam County jail was Andrew Staritzky of Port Angeles in May 2011.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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