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Sunday, August 10, 2014

State Legislator Files Suit in Son's Death

Posted By on Sun, Aug 10, 2014 at 12:13 PM

State legislator Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, has filed suit with her husband Garth against the Bannock County Sheriff's Office and deputies working at the Bannock County Jail after officials wouldn't answer questions about the circumstances surrounding the death of their son, Jason VanOrden, according to the Idaho State Journal.

Jason died Aug. 29, 2013, from what officials ruled a suicide while he was incarcerated in the Bannock County Jail.

They filed a wrongful death suit in 6th District Court against individual deputies and the sheriff's office, as well as filing in federal court, alleging Jason's rights were violated while in the jail. The suit states that Jason should have been on suicide watch, and officials should have recognized his emotional and mental unsuitability. They maintain that warning signs pointing to suicide were present.

Jason was arrested Aug. 15, two weeks before his suicide, after a four-hour standoff with 24 police officers in Pocatello. He was also suspected of battering his estranged wife earlier that day.

The Idaho State Journal reports that at the scene of the standoff, Jason cut his wrists and officers found a suicide note in his truck. One officer fired a taser into his lip and he needed to be transported to the hospital to have the taser lead removed from his mouth. He was ultimately charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. He was allegedly unarmed and not under the influence at the time of his arrest, though he had a past history of substance abuse.

The day of his death, Jason blocked the window into his cell with toilet paper and his cell door was locked. According to witness statements, a jailer looked in the cell, saw Jason and told him to "knock it off," but took no other action. He ended up hanging himself.

Julie said there's no documentation showing that Jason received any medical attention during his two-week stay in the jail, despite his mental state and his refusal to eat.

Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen declined to comment on the case to ISJ.

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