INDIANAPOLIS -- Newly-released footage of the Marion County Jail shows an inmate who appeared to throw himself down the stairs in an attempt to hurt or kill himself.
Two days later, Shane Miles, a father of five, hung himself in a holding cell at the City County Building (CCB) and died at the age of 26.
Shane’s widow, Erica Miles, and her attorney allege a loophole in the Marion County Sheriff’s Office suicide prevention procedures resulted in Shane’s death.
Miles was picked up on a misdemeanor drug charge out of Pennsylvania and taken to the Marion County Jail on August 23, 2016.
Two days before he was scheduled to appear in court for an extradition hearing, cell block video shows Miles appearing to “size up” a staircase and then throw himself down it.
“He clearly throws himself down here, you can tell he hasn’t tripped or anything,” said Eric Pavlack, attorney for Erica Miles. “It’s shocking to see it. It’s clear he was really in a lot of distress.”
The staircase incident was the first of four suicide attempts while in the custody of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Pavlack alleged.
Jail staff gave Miles an ice pack, which he tore open in another attempt to harm himself.
“He drank the contents of the ice pack and tried to poison himself and it made him very sick,” said Pavlack.
In his third attempt, Miles bashed his head into a wall, Pavlack said.
Miles was distraught over his arrest, missing work, and possibly withdrawing from drug use.
Inmates were also targeting Miles because they were taken back to their cells when Miles threw himself down the stairs, Pavlack said.
“The inmates’ reaction was they were going to get him for doing this, and he had people wanting to harm him,” said Pavlack.
Shane Miles was placed on 24-hour constant monitoring and given a suicide smock with special fabric.
However, two days after the staircase incident, on August 30 jail staff took Miles to the City County Building for a court hearing.
He was wearing regular jail clothing for his court hearing, rather than a suicide smock.
“Deputies say judges prefer the inmates be in more dignified clothing,” said Pavlack.
According to court depositions, Shane Miles was left alone in the CCB holding cell for between 15 and 45 minutes.
In that time, Miles used the clothing to hang himself, and he died at the age of 26.
Miles' widow and Pavlack blame a loophole in the office’s suicide prevention protocol.
"They don't have any procedures at the City County Building for suicide watch," said Pavlack. “It's not that hard to prevent an inmate from killing themselves. You don't give them an opportunity to do it and you don't give them the tools to do it."
Erica Miles filed a federal lawsuit, alleging jail staff should have been watching her suicidal husband, not just at the jail, but also at the City County Building.
"If somebody would have done their job, if they had done what they were supposed to do, all of it could have been avoided,” said Erica Miles. “It makes it worse for me knowing if they had done what they were supposed to do he would still be here today."
The corporal assigned to watch Pavlack has been employed with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office since 2003, and was not disciplined over Shane Miles death.
Court depositions show the corporal filled out his observation sheet in 15 minute increments, but only after Miles was found hanging.
“It was pretty much a guesstimate trying to recapitulate the time,” read the corporal’s deposition.
Deputies testified the sheriff’s office had no written policy in place for suicidal inmates at the City County Building when Miles hung himself in August 2016.
“Once he was suicidal and in the custody and care of the sheriff’s deputies, it became their responsibility to take reasonable precautions and we know what those are,” said Pavlack. “Watch him and take away his shirt. It was fine while he was in the jail, but as soon as he went to the city county building they took away those protections.”
Erica Miles said her husband was never suicidal and had no other criminal charges aside from the marijuana and controlled substance charges.
“He was still human, and his whole life was just disregarded like he wasn’t important,” said Miles. “My children are going through a lot of counseling. It’s still like it just happened, and it’s heartbreaking.”
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office declined our repeated requests to talk about suicide prevention policies, including those at the City County Building.
Pavlack provided Call 6 Investigates with transcripts that show the sheriff’s office has updated its training regarding suicidal inmates at the CCB since Shane Miles’ death.
“It took somebody dying over there because of their complete absence of any procedures to get them to protect the inmates that are over there,” said Pavlack.