CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The family of a man who died in state custody is raising questions about the circumstances which surrounded his death. Phillip Board of Dunbar died April 5, a day after he was lodged in the South Central Regional Jail on a charge of child neglect creating risk of injury.
“The information we have at this point is we’ve got a gentleman who suffered from chronic health problems and chronic issues involving alcohol and was placed into the medical unit for a very brief period of time,” said Charleston Attorney Jesse Forbes who represents Board’s family. “Almost immediately after being released from the medical unit he died.”
The charges against Board stemmed from a March 27th incident in which he was observed walking with a young child. When police stopped him and checked, his blood alcohol level was .462. However, he was not arrested on the charge until more than a week later on April 4th. Relatives maintain he was drunk at the time of his incarceration, but so far state officials find no evidence to support the claim.
“No indication whatsoever at this time,” said Lawrence Messina, the Assistant Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. “I’m still awaiting findings of the internal review.”
But Forbes and Board’s surviving relatives believe the jail staff or the medical staff at the jail should have known of his history of alcoholism and chronic health problems. They believe the staff failed to adequately recognized the risk of placing him into a cell alone.
“Generally alcoholism is something medical professionals can treat and deal with,” said Forbes. “But if you’re locked up in a box and you’re not getting the appropriate medical care and you’re not in a position where you can get the things you need it can lead to a tragic event like this.”
But Messina said from all indications, the staff at the jail acted within protocol and followed all required procedures in the matter.
“I’m aware of nothing unusual or not by the book when it comes to this inmate’s situation,” Messina said. “Mr. Board suffered what appears to have been a medical episode. He was found in his cell, staff immediately provided medical attention and an ambulance was called to the jail. Medical treatment continued and he was taken to a nearby hospital. We’re told at that hospital he was pronounced dead.”
Forbes said his team continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding Board’s death and Messina added the Regional Jail Authority is continuing an internal review. The autopsy report on Board is incomplete.