The state Attorney General’s Office has cleared a Washington State Patrol trooper and corrections staff at the Franklin County jail of wrongdoing in the death of a Kennewick man.
Russell Edward Sharrer, 54, died at the jail from methamphetamine intoxication and other health problems shortly after being arrested by the trooper Feb. 24, wrote Melanie Tratnik, assistant attorney general, in her charging decision.
An autopsy showed Sharrer had deadly levels of methamphetamine in his system. He also suffered from heart disease and emphysema.
The Attorney General’s Office determined excessive force did not play a role in the death.
“No crime has been committed and no criminal charges are warranted,” Tratnik wrote.
Shawn Sant, Franklin County prosecutor, asked the state agency to step in and investigate because the case involved county employees, he said in an email to the Herald.
The Attorney General’s Office received the case in May. Tratnik reviewed jail video, police and autopsy reports before making a charging decision.
Trooper James Stairet stopped Sharrer for a broken tail light while patrolling Kennewick, according to Tratnik’s report. Sharrer apparently admitted to drinking earlier in the day.
Sharrer was unable to follow instructions during field sobriety tests and made statements that someone was trying to kill him, the report said. The trooper arrested Sharrer for driving without a license and on an outstanding warrant.
Sharrer acted strange in the patrol car, repeatedly looking out the window behind him and ducking down to try and hide, the report said.
“Throughout the contact, Trooper Stairet repeatedly assured Mr. Sharrer that he was there to protect him and that neither he nor anyone else was trying to kill him,” the report said.
When the pair arrived at the jail, Sharrer tried to pull away from the trooper, who restrained Sharrer against the patrol car, the report said. Corrections officers saw the struggle and came to help.
Corrections officers eventually took Sharrer from the trooper and tried to lead the suspect towards the booking area.
The corrections officers forced Sharrer to the ground during a struggle in an attempt to put leg restraints on, the report said. Sharrer continued to resist and yell that people were trying to kill him.
A jail corporal sprayed Sharrer with pepper spray, but he allegedly continued to struggle with jail staff.
“After several minutes of struggling, Mr. Sharrer suddenly went limp and he appeared to be unconscious,” the report said.
Sharrer was rushed to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where he died three days later.
The struggle was captured on video, which has not yet been made public.
The autopsy showed the amount of methamphetamine in Sharrer’s system was well over the average level in cases of fatal overdoses.
A forensic pathologist determined the death was due to acute methamphetamine intoxication combined with Sharrer’s previous health issues.
Sharrer was the first of four people to die so far in 2015 while in custody in Tri-City jails.