Charlotte man dies in jail from unknown cause Saturday morning

A 42-year-old Charlotte man died inside the Mecklenburg County jail on Saturday morning, according to Sheriff Garry McFadden.

Tommy Hucks, who was arrested earlier in the week, according to jail records, is the seventh person over the last year to die while in custody in the Mecklenburg Detention Center.

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McFadden has faced rising criticism over jail safety problems and the facility being short staffed — issues also cited by state officials in recent reports. In a news statement Saturday, the sheriff said “MCSO is very dismayed to report the death of Mr. Hucks. It’s always difficult to experience the loss of anyone in our custody and care. We send our deepest condolences to Mr. Hucks’ family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

The sheriff’s office did not say what led to Hucks’ death but that detention center staff found him unresponsive in his jail cell around 9:46 a.m. In the statement, McFadden said employees responded to Hucks’ “medical emergency” and attempted to revive him with CPR. The sheriff says fire department and Medic personnel arrived within 12 minutes of Hucks’ being found but also were unable to resuscitate him.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death of Hucks because it happened while in police custody. A medical examiner’s review is also expected.

Problems in Mecklenburg jail

After several deaths in the jail last year, state officials responded with inspections and a critical report which stipulated McFadden must reduce the facility’s inmate population. A key concern is the ratio of jail personnel to inmates as the jail continues to suffer from a staff shortage. In February, N.C. DHHS Chief Jail Inspector Chris Wood recommended McFadden move inmates to cut the jail population to 1,000 people or below, The Charlotte Observer has previously reported.

On the day before Hucks’ death, the central facility jail population stood at around 1,200 inmates, according to the sheriff’s office.

McFadden has previously defended his leadership and conditions in the jail and pledged to correct issues after state officials got involved. He’s increased pay to recruit and retain employees in the jail, hired security officers from a private agency, and proposed shutting down the county’s juvenile detention facility to save money.

Partly related to this year’s effort to reduce the number of people in custody, federal authorities in March confirmed dozens of inmates being held in Mecklenburg would be transferred to other facilities. That decision, though, also cost Mecklenburg County millions in reimbursement revenue for the cost of housing some federal inmates.

The documented safety problems and criticism against McFadden were prominent in the May Democratic primary race for sheriff, where two former sheriff’s office employees ran unsuccessfully against their former boss. McFadden won a second four-year term and faces no opposition in the general election.

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