RACINE, Wis. - The death of a Racine County Jail inmate has been ruled an accidental overdose, the sheriff's office said Friday, Dec. 3.
The finding is the result of an investigation by the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department – the outside agency tasked with investigating the death of 22-year-old Ronquale Ditello-Scott Jr.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling ordered a "Len Bias" investigation into Ditello-Scott's death after he was found dead in a holding cell on May 29. The 22-year-old had been arrested and jailed for operating while intoxicated.
An autopsy, conducted by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office, determined Ditello-Scott’s cause of death was "acute fentanyl toxicity." The Racine County medical examiner determined that the manner of death to be "accidental."
A review of the body camera recordings showed that while Ditello-Scott was in custody, deputies and correctional officers repeatedly asked him if he was on any substance other than marijuana. Ditello-Scott stated he was not on any other substance and, on several occasions, said that he was just very tired.
Racine County Jail
The lead investigator reported:
"Ditello Scott was arrested by Racine County Sheriff’s Deputies and arrived to the Racine Jail at 0410 Hrs. Deputies did not use force at any point during that contact. Ditello Scott was booked into the Jail and placed in Male Holding #1 at 0510 Hrs. Jail staff did not use force at any point during that contact. Ditello Scott remained in Male Holding #1. At no point did Ditello Scott request medical assistance for himself. At no point did any inmate request medical assistance for Ditello Scott.
"I watched the facility footage of Ditello Scott from the time he laid down in Male Holding #1 to the time he was found not breathing by Correctional Officer S[.] and Nurse R[.] from 0510 Hrs to 0809 Hrs the uninterrupted video showed that Ditello Scott didn’t move from his bed and no one, including inmates, ever touched Ditello Scott while he was in Male Holding #1[.]"
Statement from Sheriff Schmaling:
"Every overdose death is a tragedy, and I am very concerned that there has been a 30% increase of overdose deaths, in a one-year period, in the United States. The reports are, during this same time period, over 100,000 people nationally have died from overdoses. Therefore, I am calling on the Racine County Metro Drug Task Force to continue its ‘Len Bias’ investigation into Ronquale’s death so that all of the individuals who are responsible for illegally peddling this poison can be held accountable in a court of law."
Ditello-Scott's death was the first of two at the jail in less than one week. Malcolm James, who was on suicide watch, suffered a "medical event" and died on June 1. The sheriff's office said he suffered the event while being medically evacuated by jail staff after he repeatedly slammed his head into a wall.
The deaths of both inmates spurred protests and demonstrations in the area in the days that followed.
Additional investigation details
The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department investigation included:
- Interviews of all relevant witnesses, including: a gas station employee that saw Ditello-Scott before his arrest; the arresting deputies; jail staff and inmates; the deputy chief medical examiner of Milwaukee County; and the Racine County medical examiner
- A review of body-worn camera video and jail recordings
- A review of written reports and related documents
- A review of medical documentation and a defibrillator report
- A review of the physical evidence
- An additional search of the vehicle Ditello-Scott was driving, which resulted in the location of a small amount of marijuana and a pill that tested positive for fentanyl
- A forensic review of Ditello-Scott’s cellular phone
- An autopsy at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office
A "Len Bias" investigation/prosecution is named after the overdose death of basketball star Len Bias in 1986. Following Bias’ death, laws were passed that allowed for criminal prosecutions against all individuals involved in the supply chain that led to the victim possessing the controlled substance that caused their death.
In Wisconsin, this law is Wis. Stat. § 940.02(2)(a)3, First Degree Reckless Homicide. The maximum penalty for this type of homicide is a fine not to exceed $100,000, imprisonment not to exceed 40 years, or both.
Therefore, the investigation into the homicide of Ditello-Scott is active and ongoing.