NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the apparent suicide of a 15-year-old inmate Monday night. The inmate apparently used a mattress cover in his cell at the Orleans Justice Center to asphyxiate himself.
Inmate Jaquin Thomas, a juvenile being tried as an adult, was found unresponsive in his cell at 9:19 p.m. Monday by a deputy making a scheduled security round. The deputy immediately called for assistance. Thomas was taken to University Medical Center for treatment. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 10:11 p.m. Monday.
Thomas had been incarcerated since July 28, 2016 on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. Thomas’ family has been notified. He was accused in a July shooting death in New Orleans East.
According to court documents, on July 21st at 1:51 AM, a witness told police that 34-year-old Tyrance Chancellor and his nephew, Thomas, forced their way into an apartment at 14765 Chef Menteur Highway through the front door. The witness told police Thomas was coming up the stairs with a hand gun.
Thomas and the man inside became involved in a physical altercation. The witness then said Thomas raised his arm toward the man and heard a gunshot, the man was shot.
The witness said Chancellor left the apartment and said “I don’t know why Jaquin shot him.”
The officers found the victim dead on scene. Chancellor and Jaquin were located on scene.
The investigation will be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for review and determination.
According to the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, there have been 48 deaths in the Orleans Parish Prison since 2006. Two of those have happened in the new facility. They released this statement:
“OPPRC is deeply disturbed by the news of Jaquin Thomas’ death in OPP, and extends condolences to his family and community. His is the 48th death in OPP since 2006, and the second death, following Cleveland Tumblin’s suicide in March, to occur in the Orleans Justice Center, which opened just over a year ago. Many questions remain surrounding the circumstances that led to this 15-year-old’s alleged suicide in an adult jail.
Thomas’ death is a tragic reminder of the brutal, violent, and deadly conditions inside OPP. His death illustrates the need for increased accountability and community oversight, and the need to oppose any plans to expand the jail. At a time when the jail is severely understaffed, when protocols have not been written or followed, when classification systems are repeatedly ignored, and when the jail has been mismanaged for so many years, building more beds and exposing more people to the violence and neglect will do nothing to improve public safety. A smaller jail is a safer jail. Children and people with mental illness should not be in jail, and we will continue to oppose any jail expansion in their name.”