A 28-year-old woman who collapsed in the Cowlitz County Jail died at a Vancouver hospital Thursday afternoon, a Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Friday morning.
Jenny Lynn Borelis died at Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver. Her death came four days after a Kelso police officer shocked her with a stun gun during a foot chase and she fell on her head, according to a police report.
Authorities said Borelis was a regular drug user and it’s too early to say how she died. The Clark County Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy, said Cowlitz County Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig.
The sheriff’s office started an investigation Wednesday after Borelis collapsed and jail medical staff performed CPR on her. She was then taken to St. John Medical Center and transferred to the Vancouver hospital.
“We don’t have any reason to believe a crime was involved,” Rosenzweig said Friday morning. “We had interviewed the inmates that were around her. We gathered standard evidence around her area of the cell, but there really isn’t anything that would really explain why she would pass out. There are no reports of an assault or scuffle or fight.”
Borelis tried to run from a Kelso police officer on Long Avenue in West Kelso early Sunday morning, police said. The officer said he didn’t want to tackle Borelis, who had several corrections department warrants, because he knew her to be an intravenous drug user and feared he might get poked with a needle. He said he instead threatened to use his stun gun and shocked her when she kept running.
Borelis fell forward and landed on her head, according to a police report. She was taken early Sunday morning to St. John Medical Center, then booked into the Cowlitz County Jail later after undergoing a CAT scan at the hospital.
On Friday, Kelso police chief Andrew Hamilton identified the officer who deployed his Taser against Borelis as Sgt. Khembar Yund, whom he described as “a seasoned law enforcement officer.”
Hamilton said Yund’s use of force during the Sunday arrest was appropriate. As a matter of regular procedure, the episode was reviewed by the department’s captains and found to be within regulations, he said.
“We look at every Taser report,” Hamilton said. “It’s a constant evaluation process.”
Hamilton said it’s impossible to say at this stage what led to Borelis’ death, but he said he is sure it wasn’t the Taser. Some claim the devices have resulted in the deaths of arrestees, but law enforcement agencies have historically stood by them as a safe, nonlethal weapons.
“I’m very confident with where the investigation from the sheriff’s department will lead,” Hamilton said.
Rosenzweig said it’s unclear whether Borelis became ill as a result of a head injury. Borelis told police she had used heroin and meth during the weekend, according to the police report, and Rosenzweig said he could not rule out drugs as a factor in her illness.
Doctors at the hospital told police little about Borelis’s medical condition because of privacy laws, so it will be up to the Clark County Medical Examiner to determine cause of death, Rosenzweig said. The Medical Examiner could not say Friday afternoon when an autopsy would begin.
“It’s definitely an ongoing investigation and we will continue to work on it,” Rosenzweig said, adding, “We’ve already put many hours into the investigation.”
The jail is run by the Cowlitz County Corrections Department, which is a separate agency from the Sheriff’s Office, he noted.
Marin Fox Hight, the corrections director, said Borelis fell out of a lower bunk, a distance of about two feet to the floor, in her cell on Wednesday. Later that afternoon, Borelis was “unresponsive.” Jail medical staff started CPR and called 911, she said.
Citing medical privacy regulations, Fox Hight declined to say whether Borelis had shown signs of illness in the days leading up to her hospitalization.
The last time an inmate died at the jail was in January 2011, when Michael Wayne Hobbs, 50, of Longview was found dead in his cell, Fox Hight said. Hobbs was determined to have died of natural causes.
While examining Borelis for a head injury Sunday, a St. John Medical Center nurse was poked with an uncapped needle tucked into Borelis’ bra, police said. Borelis told officers at the time that she was infected with Hepatitis C, an incurable virus that often is spread among needle-sharing drug users and can cause liver disease.
The nurse was placed on a course of treatment aimed at preventing his infection with the virus.