OGDEN — Incident reports filed by Weber County Jail corrections officers and nurses detail the symptomatic decline of arrestee Eric Gavin and the efforts they made to save his life after he collapsed from a drug overdose.
Picked up on a parole violation allegation, Gavin, 39, was in the jail for about four hours June 12 and died soon after at an Ogden hospital.
The state medical examiner determined the cause of death was a methamphetamine overdose, Lt. Joshua Marigoni, Weber County Sheriff’s Office corrections spokesman, said Friday.
Gavin’s death occurred amid heightened concerns at jails throughout Utah about higher numbers of arrestees arriving with substance abuse or mental health problems. The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is studying how jails are dealing with substance abuse cases.
Marigoni said Gavin’s death unfortunately may provide an example of how jails don’t have the resources they desire to be able to more adequately deal with inmates afflicted by substance problems.
MEDICAL WING PLANS
Sheriff Ryan Arbon and his staff are making plans for a medical wing expansion in the jail that would have more nurses and equipment and thereby possess a better ability to triage arrestees — similar to how people are screened at a hospital emergency room.
“They’re in custody, so we’re ultimately responsible for what they’re doing,” Marigoni said. “We do the best with what we have.”
In that future jail entry area, an arrestee would be medically evaluated first — by a nurse, not a corrections officer.
“This kind of proves the need for a setup like that,” Marigoni said.
Marigoni gave a hypothetical example of a suspect being brought to jail having just taken a large amount of drugs.
“They’re not going to tell me, someone with a badge,” Marigoni said. “They’re afraid of me and new charges. But if we can get an honest evaluation, maybe that person tells a nurse, ‘I’m scared, I took this amount of drugs.’”
‘FRANTIC AND DISTRESSED’
Reports about Gavin’s death, obtained this week with a public records request, chronicle the man’s uneventful arrival at the jail, followed hours later by what Marigoni described as a “rapid decline.”
Gavin seemed to be in normal health when Utah Adult Probation and Parole agents arrived at the jail with him at 4:59 p.m., according to a joint investigative report by the sheriff’s office and the Weber County Attorney’s Office.
An investigator who reviewed jail surveillance video said Gavin started pacing back and forth in a holding cell at 5:20 p.m. while awaiting the booking process.
At 7:18 p.m., Gavin spoke with a nurse, another part of the booking process, and had his vital readings checked.
Gavin began acting oddly at 8:01 p.m., reports said.
Over the next 13 minutes, he tried to follow a deputy into a clothing changeout room without permission, laid on his back in the common area, fidgeted, sat up, then tried to cross his legs and touched various parts of his body.
An officer’s report said during the change into jail clothing at that time, Gavin was “compliant but not mentally present.”
“It was now evident that Gavin was not ready to go to housing (regular jail cells) nor was his behavior conducive to being in the same cell as other inmates,” the officer reported. “The booking cells were occupied so Gavin was moved to a pre-booking holding cell to sober up.”
Another officer reported that at 8:13 p.m. “it appeared to me that Gavin may have been under the influence of methamphetamines.”
She checked him visually, finding he was conscious, breathing and alert, but his “eyes appeared to be dilated and he was exhibiting uncontrolled body movements.”
She left the pre-booking area to continue “working with the numerous individuals waiting to go through the booking process.”
She reported she checked on him 15 minutes later, finding “his breathing seemed to have sped up and he didn’t seem to be as alert as my previous check. His body movements had changed from more fluid to rough or bouncy.”
The officer said she left pre-booking again and contacted the jail medical staff at 8:38 p.m., reporting his condition and asking that a nurse evaluate him in the pre-booking cell.
Another jail employee reported that at 8:35 p.m. she saw Gavin “behaving in a frantic and distressed manner,” standing at the cell door. “I heard him say, ‘I need water.’ His body language and the distress in his face caused me great concern.”
She said he went to the bathroom and then “staggered over to the front bench and laid down on it. His body was making convulsive-like movements.”
ORIGIN OF OVERDOSE?
The employee said she asked an officer, “What’s wrong with that guy?” She said the officer responded, “He probably just brought something into the jail that we did not find and is now getting up.”
Marigoni said officers “have no idea” when and where Gavin took methamphetamine.
“There’s only one guy who knows,” he said.
At about 8:44 p.m., a nurse was in the cell examining Gavin and talking to him.
“He was tightly making fists with rapid, shallow breaths,” the nurse’s report said. “He had a thready, rapid pulse.”
Shortly after, Gavin slumped over and the nurse began CPR. Numerous other medical and jail personnel responded, bringing a defibrillator, oxygen and other emergency supplies.
At 8:54 p.m., a nurse administered the narcotic overdose rescue medication, Narcan, but it had no visible effect, the reports said.
At one point, Gavin’s resumed breathing, but only briefly.
Paramedics were called and arrived at 8:56 p.m. They took Gavin to an Ogden hospital, where he was declared dead at 9:27 p.m.
Marigoni said it’s “fairly common” that inmates arrive under the influence.
“Often we give them time to sober up or sleep it off,” Marigoni said.
“Every situation is not the same, and things change,” he said.
“We might make one decision and then it might change rapidly and then we will take further action. In this case, the situation degraded rapidly.”
Efforts to contact Gavin’s family were not immediately successful.
According to court records, probation agents arrested Gavin on a warrant issued by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
He had been on probation after a 2015 felony DUI conviction. Records showed he had three previous DUIs and had struggled with addiction and failed probation several times.