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Questions follow hanging death in jail booking area

Pitor Dutkiewicz was found unresponsive at the Kane County jail and died.
Pitor Dutkiewicz was found unresponsive at the Kane County jail and died.

Less than an hour before he hanged himself while in custody Jan. 5 in the booking area of the Kane County Jail, Piotr Dutkiewicz’s mental health evaluation stated, “There was no indication that Dutkiewicz wanted to harm himself.”

The medical form indicates no problems, except that Dutkiewicz “had been drinking alcohol,” and a review of the video of his interview showed “no signs of distress,” Kane County Sheriff’s Office records indicate

Dutkiewicz’s mental health evaluation shows it was signed off at 3:46 p.m. However – less than an hour later – he took his own life after he was left alone in a restroom for nearly 20 minutes.

Records obtained from the Kane County Sheriff’s Office through the Freedom of Information Act, as well as the Kane County coroner autopsy report, detail the last day of Dutkiewicz’s life – from his arrest that morning to when he was found hanging from a tension door closer that afternoon – as well as measures taken to try to save his life.

While being processed in the booking area, Dutkiewicz answered all of the questions put to him – that he was divorced and homeless, that he had a master’s degree and had served in the army in his native Poland. Dutkiewicz was said to be “mentally alert” and “oriented,” though it was noted that he had consumed a “potentially dangerous level of alcohol,” according to his medical intake form.

To the question of how much alcohol he drank, Dutkiewicz responded, “until I pass out,” records show.

He was screened by the medical staff at 12:40 p.m. with the recommendation that he go to alcohol detox and be assigned to a “low bunk, no razor while on detox,” records show.

Dutkiewicz ate a lunch of ham; macaroni and cheese; some mixed vegetables of peas, green beans and carrots; cornbread; salad; a cookie; and a drink, Lt. Pat Gengler said.

The Kane County Sheriff’s Office conducted a review of its policies and procedures and determined that there were no violations in regards to Dutkiewicz’s death, according to a news release from Sheriff Donald Kramer.

However, results of an additional jail review, released this week through a Freedom of Information Act request, state, “In light of recent events, these bathrooms need to be monitored more closely.”

“If the detainee is in there for more than five minutes, then an officer WILL be sent to check on them,” the additional review states. “I also want us to get detainees changed over into orange [jail clothes] sooner ... . These changes are to be implemented immediately.”

The additional review also called for the restroom doors to be changed to a “dressing-room type door or a curtain of some sort.”

In an email, Gengler wrote that being “booked” means to be “interviewed, obtain authorization of the charges from the [states’ attorney’s office], complete the paperwork, give that to jail staff, then they complete the process. There is not [a] standard timeframe on that.”

As to the length of time Dutkiewicz was alone in the restroom – 17 to 18 minutes according to the coroner’s records – Gengler’s email states, “Jail standards require checks on inmates every 30 minutes for regular inmates and 20 for those on suicide watch.”

Initially, officials did not respond to questions about whether there is a standard length of time that applies to a restroom visit while still in the booking area.

The only details provided to the Kane County Chronicle on the matter were the results of the additional jail review provided through the Freedom of Information Act on Wednesday.

• • •

The rate of suicide in county jails is higher than in prisons, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Deaths in Custody Reporting Program. 

In 2013, the jail suicide rate was 46 for every 100,000, while the prison suicide rate was 15 for every 100,000, the bureau reported. The rate among the general U.S. population is 13 for every 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dutkiewicz, 51, was arrested the morning of Jan. 5 while sheriff’s deputies were evicting him from his house in the 600 block of Forrest Avenue in Elgin.

“He had an unknown device in his hands, which he then turned and placed on the front porch of the residence,” according to a sheriff’s deputy’s arrest report released through a Freedom of Information Act request. “When I got near him and asked what he put on the porch, he stated, ‘It’s a bomb and there’s 16 more throughout the house.’ “

There were no bombs, but Dutkiewicz was charged with threatening a public official – a felony – and disorderly conduct.

“Piotr smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet and had glassy, bloodshot eyes at this time,” states the deputy’s report. “I asked him if he had been drinking, which he said yes, he had been drinking Smirnoff vodka during the night.”

The report continues, stating that when Dutkiewicz arrived at the Kane County Adult Correctional Center, “I completed the inmate medical intake form and advised medical of Piotr’s admission to consuming alcohol. Medical personnel advised they could smell the alcohol as well.”

“Piotr advised he was downstairs in his basement working on his model trains and drinking Smirnoff vodka during the night and had not slept at all last night,” the report states.

“Piotr did not recall saying anything about a bomb to me at any time,” states the report. “Piotr stated he did not wish to harm anyone and he might have said something only in a ‘joking manner.’ Repeatedly, Piotr said he did not recall saying the device was a bomb, or that there were 16 more in the house.”

• • •

At the time of his death, Dutkiewicz was 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighed 130 pounds and was wearing two pairs of sweatpants, according to the coroner’s records.

He was still wearing his own clothes, records show, and had not been issued the bright orange clothing jail inmates usually wear.

Records show Dutkiewicz asked to use the restroom in the booking area at 4:26 p.m. 

The restroom door, identified as I19, could only be opened electronically from the booking control desk or by using a key, records show.

Dutkiewicz was found hanging with his feet off of the floor from the restroom’s tension door closer at 4:44 p.m. He had tied the drawstrings from his two pairs of sweatpants around his neck and tied them to the tension door closer in the restroom, using an overturned garbage can to stand on, records show.

“The ends of the drawstrings were frayed,” the sheriff’s report notes.

• • •

Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center based in Lake Worth, Florida, said it should not have been physically possible for Dutkiewicz to have hanged himself. In a separate legal matter, Prison Legal News is suing Kane County and the sheriff in federal court, alleging they violated prisoners’ rights by not allowing them to receive the publication.

“They are having a moment of crisis,” Wright said. “Government officials try to con the public into believing, ‘There’s nothing we can do about it.’ We know actually that is not true. For most people who try to kill themselves, they are in a crisis period in their lives. Generally, they are not going to kill themselves.”

Wright said it does not matter that hundreds of arrestees are processed at the Kane County jail every day without hurting themselves. The jail’s average population is about 500 inmates, officials said.

The Kane County jail had two other recent inmate suicides, Keith Renfro Jr. in 2012 and Terry Hart in 2013. Both died by hanging.

• • •

Once Dutkiewicz was discovered hanging, deputies took him down and immediately began lifesaving measures while they waited for paramedics to arrive, records show.

Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District paramedics arrived at 4:56 p.m. and took over resuscitation efforts from the jail staff, coroner’s records show.

They put in an endotracheal tube to aid in breathing and gave him oxygen, coroner records show.

They also gave him five rounds of epinephrine – a drug used in resuscitation – and administered an automatic external defibrillator.

After the fifth round of epinephrine, paramedics detected a pulse, coroner’s records show.

Paramedics left the booking area at 5:28 p.m., continuing to work on Dutkiewicz, giving him atropine, a drug used to regulate the heartbeat, records show.

Dutkiewicz had a “strong pulse” of 70 beats per minute, but after paramedics pulled into the ambulance bay at Delnor Hospital in Geneva at 5:33 p.m., the pulse was lost and he stopped breathing, coroner records show.

Unsuccessful lifesaving measures were taken at Delnor’s emergency room at 5:35 p.m. and a doctor pronounced Dutkiewicz dead at 5:44 p.m.

The pathologist estimated it took him two minutes to lose consciousness and die of suffocation, coroner’s records show.

Dutkiewicz’s blood-alcohol content was 0.042 percent, according to the toxicology report.

• • •

Dutkiewicz’s longtime friend, Halina Slodkiewicz, also a Polish immigrant, paid the coroner’s office $200 for him to be cremated. She picked up his remains on Feb. 16, coroner records show.

Slodkiewicz also was named in the court records of the foreclosure and eviction from the Elgin property. 

She told deputies they were friends who knew each other for 25 years, records show.

“I spoke with his friend, who said he was upset and talking about killing himself,” states a sheriff’s deputy’s report. “He was upset about losing his house and did not want to live. Slodkiewicz told me that she spoke with police during the eviction on the morning of [Jan. 5] but did not tell them about his suicidal thoughts.”

She told sheriff’s deputies that she contacted Dutkiewicz’s brother and sister in Poland about his death.

When contacted by a reporter, Slodkiewicz said Dutkiewicz was buried on March 23. She said that she was upset and could not talk about his death.

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