Benton County jail inmate hangs himself

A 29-year-old inmate at the Benton County jail was found hanging against his cell door Monday night.

Christopher M. Britton was said to be suicidal and had been held in a safety room at the Kennewick jail since his Saturday arrest, said Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane.

The Richland man was checked by corrections officers at 7:08 p.m. Monday, Keane said.

When they conducted another check 20 minutes later, he was dead. Corrections officers initiated CPR, but could not revive him.

Coroner John Hansens ruled Britton's death a suicide. No autopsy was done but toxicology tests are pending, he said.

The safety room at the jail is closer to the booking area and more visible to corrections officers, Keane said.

It's also a padded room and separated from other inmates. People held in the safety room cannot have any items in order to protect the staff and themselves, Capt. Jon Law explained.

In Britton's case, he was wearing a suicide smock instead of regular jail clothes. He also was given a safety blanket, which is made of durable material to prevent tearing, Keane said.

Britton, however, picked or chewed the blanket enough to get some thread to make a noose. He strung the thread through two small holes on the cell door, Keane said.

"When somebody is intent on taking their life ... you can't always prevent it, unfortunately," Keane said.

Officers conduct regular checks every 30 minutes on inmates on suicide watch. Britton might have figured out the routine and knew he would have some time after his last check, the sheriff said.

Britton was arrested early Saturday by Richland police after they were called to the 1300 block of Marshall Avenue for a welfare check, Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb told the Herald.

Britton reportedly was walking home and made some comment about trying to find a bridge to throw himself from, Cobb said.

When officers talked to him, Britton gave a fake name because he had warrants out for his arrest. Officers figured out his name and arrested him for obstruction and the warrants, Cobb said.

Britton was booked into the jail at 5 a.m. Saturday. He had a warrant from another county and two warrants from Kennewick for failing to comply with charges of driving with a suspended license and disorderly conduct, according to jail records.

Keane said it's rare to have someone take his or her own life in the jail, but sheriff's officials still plan to review the policies and procedures.

Herald archives show the last Benton County jail suicide was in 2005, and before then it had been 20 years.