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Missouri police investigate after man dies in jail

A Missouri police department is conducting its own administrative investigation following the death of a man in a city jail.

Anthony Phillip Garner died on Dec. 19 after officers with the Pleasant Hill Police Department defied their own written policy of removing belts, The Kansas City Star reported on Friday. 

The man used the belt he was wearing when taken into custody to hang himself hours later, according to the report.

The 53-year-old was arrested on outstanding warrants after he had been pulled over for a missing front license plate.

The Pleasant Hill Police Department's policy manual states that an arrested person's belt and "anything that could create a security or suicide risk," such as contraband, shoes or shoelaces and jackets, should be removed before they are placed in a jail cell.

Garner's death was also not discovered for almost two hours, according to records obtained by The Kansas City Star, despite Pleasant Hill policy requiring jail workers to conduct safety checks "no less than every 15 minutes."

Police said that Garner resisted arrest and he suffered a bruised shoulder during a struggle with officers. He allegedly pulled out of his pocket a glass pipe and threw it on the ground but an officer found it. Paramedics checked Gardner and determined his injury was not serious, The Star noted.

He complained about the pain around 2:30 a.m. and was giving a pain reliever by an officer, according to the report. He then hung himself before 3 a.m. It wasn't until 4:25 a.m. that an officer noticed Garner wasn't moving on a surveillance video and went into his cell to pull him down and perform CPR, The Star reported. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputy Jackson County medical examiner Lindsey Haldiman ruled his death a suicide, the newspaper reported. She also noted that Garner had cocaine and marijuana in his system.

Pleasant Hill Police Chief Robert Driscoll declined to explain to the newspaper why officers did not remove Garner's belt.

A Pleasant Hill police sergeant told Cass County investigators that they typically allow inmates to keep their property as long as "they present no concerns," according to the sheriff's office investigation.

The officers who arrested Garner said he never gave them any indication that he wanted to harm himself.

"When the medical examiner and the sheriff's office closed their investigations on the 31st of January, we opened an administrative investigation on Feb. 1 and that administrative investigation surrounding the events of Mr. Garner's death is ongoing at this time," Driscoll told The Star.

Driscoll declined to say if any of the officers involved will face discipline, citing the ongoing investigation.

Garner's family is working with an advocate group to get more information about what happened.

"Now that the cause of death is public and the investigation is closed, the family is still left with obvious questions concerning detaining procedures, roles and responsibilities of those working in the jail and much more," Damon Daniel, president of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, told The Star.

"The community and law enforcement agencies need each other. We know that they are human beings providing a much-needed service. However, the community's expectation is to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect."

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