Coroner says Fayette inmate's death was an accident; inmate died after struggle with jail staff

Jeffery McKinney died as an inmate in the Fayette County Detention Center. His family is seeking details of his death.
Jeffery McKinney died as an inmate in the Fayette County Detention Center. His family is seeking details of his death. Lexington Herald-Leader

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said on Monday that he has ruled the death of a Fayette County jail inmate an accident.

Jeffrey McKinney, who was serving a 10-day sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol, was pronounced dead about 45 minutes after jail officials tried to subdue him on May 22 for "combative behavior."

Ginn's comments provided more information about McKinney's case. Earlier this month, his family had asked investigators for more information, but said they had been shut out.

McKinney, 37, had a seizure during the struggle with jail staff. He choked on his vomit and died of asphyxiation, Ginn said.

Jail officials previously said McKinney, who was unresponsive, was taken from the Fayette County Detention Center to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital about 6:50 p.m. that day. He died about 7:35 p.m.

"I think that any time an accident happens at a detention center or jail that it's always good to review the policy to see what is in place to see if ... something else needs to implemented," he said. A stronger policy for employees dealing with combative inmates could ensure that "this wouldn't happen again," Ginn said.

There have been at least two other deaths of inmates at the jail since 2010.

Ginn said the investigation into McKinney's death is now in the hands of police.

"It is up to police to go forward with this if there is any type of action to be taken," said Ginn.

Police and city officials did not provide an update on the investigation.

Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the Urban County Government, said she and jail officials could not comment Monday about the findings of the autopsy "because of potential litigation."

McKinney's sister Julie Curtsinger of Frankfort has said the family has not filed a lawsuit, but has consulted with an attorney.

Curtsinger had expressed concerns earlier in the month that police, jail and coroner officials were not releasing information about what happened.

When McKinney first began serving his sentence, he told family members he wasn't being given his antiseizure medication.

McKinney was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 19 and had suffered a head injury in an ATV accident in 2006, family members said.

The family has said McKinney could be disoriented and rebellious following a seizure.

Ginn said he knew whether McKinney had the anti-seizure medication in his system when he died but he wanted to give the family information about the toxicology report before releasing it to the public.

On Monday, Curtsinger said she was starting to get information and Deputy Coroner John McCarty had given her updates in the last several days. Curtsinger said she will soon have toxicology reports and get other information from the coroner's office which will provide more details of what happened to her brother.

"We are waiting on the other piece of the puzzle," Curtsinger said.

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