UPDATE (April 5, 7:15 p.m. PT) — A Jefferson County grand jury has indicted three of the county’s sheriff’s deputies in connection with an inmate’s death last April.
The corrections officers — Deputy Michael Durkan, Deputy Cory Skidgel and Cpl. Tony Hansen — were charged with criminally negligent homicide, a felony.
“I firmly believe law enforcement needs to be transparent and held accountable if there is wrong doing,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said in a statement.
The attorney for at least one of the deputies said her client plans to plead not guilty and fight charges.
On April 26, 2017, Portland resident James Eugene Wippel died in custody, according to the sheriff’s office. Wippel had been arrested two days earlier by Warm Springs Police on heroin and methamphetamine charges.
The morning of April 26, Wippel wasn’t feeling well, according to a sheriff’s department release from last year. He was seen by nurses employed by the sheriff’s office.
Later that morning, Wippel “again began showing signs of distress” so staff called an ambulance, according to the department.
“Paramedics arrived on the scene and administered CPR, but sadly their efforts to save Mr. Wippel him [sic] were not successful,” the department said in a release.
Adkins called in the Central Oregon Major Incident Team to investigate. To avoid any conflicts of interest, the results were reviewed and presented to a grand jury by the Clackamas County District Attorney’s office.
Adkins said he has faith in the grand jury that reviewed the case.
“The death of Mr. Wippel is tragic, and I’m bothered that it happened at my facility with so many professionals involved,” he said in a statement. “I am heart-broken over these indictments because these deputies are good and faithful deputies, who care very much about their jobs and the people they are charged with overseeing.”
The deputies are on paid administrative leave pending the completion of the legal process and an internal investigation.
Jennifer Kimble, Skidgel’s attorney, said she would enter a plea of not guilty at her arraignment.
“We plan to fight this matter to the fullest extent,” Kimble said in a statement. “The corrections officers at the Jefferson County Jail, like most jail staff throughout the State, are dedicated men and women who demonstrate a high level of professionalism and compassion in performing their duties within the jail and courthouse. Often these officers are dealing with individuals with significant mental health and substance abuse problems, and the jail officials do their very best to keep people safe and secure.”
Hansen was hired in February 2015 as a corrections deputy, Skidgel was in hired February 2017 as a corrections deputy and Durkan was hired in April 2015 as a patrol deputy. Durkan transferred to corrections a year later.