Pleasant Prairie police custody death, man's family wants answers

Pleasant Prairie police said a man arrested for weapons offenses fatally shot himself in the back of a squad car Thursday, July 20.

A vigil outside the Kenosha County Courthouse was a clear way to honor that man – identified by family as 36-year-old Jacob Albright – while exactly what led up to his death remains murky.

"It’s been surreal," said Nicole Melander, Jacob's sister. "He was just so funny. I mean a lot of people know him in this town."

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Melander wonders how her brother was placed in the back of a squad car with a loaded weapon, and said answers aren't coming easy.

"Was he searched? How do you miss a whole gun? On a man wearing shorts and a tank top?" she said.

Scene of Pleasant Prairie police in-custody death investigation (July 20, 2023)

Pleasant Prairie police said officers arrested a man for weapons related offenses just after 4 p.m. Thursday. While two officers were taking him to the Kenosha County Jail, they heard a gunshot from the backseat.

Police said it appears the man, since identified by family as Albright, shot and killed himself with a concealed weapon that officers didn't find during an initial search.

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"There’s no way he was searched or searched properly and still placed in the back of a squad car with a loaded weapon especially on a weapon…a man with a gun call," said Melander. "For those officers, complete and utter failure to do their job effectively, my brother would still be alive.

"He was very close to and helping raise his significant other’s kids, so that’s going to be tough."

While waiting for the Racine County Sheriff’s Office to complete its investigation, Melander said she wishes her brother could have gotten the help he needed.

Jacob Albright

"When really mental health attention would help so many of these people, but they just continuously get thrown into jail over and over and over again," she said.

Court records show Albright was out on bond facing charges of physical abuse and disorderly conduct.

Both Pleasant Prairie police and the Racine County Sheriff’s Office told FOX6 News they will not be releasing any more information at this time.

Statement from Pleasant Prairie Police Chief David Smetana:

I am confident that the family of the individual who took his life will get the answers to their questions and concerns after the investigation being conducted by the Racine County Sheriff’s Office is completed.