By Jesse Wood
Dec. 19, 2013. While remaining silent for the most part regarding Walter Earl ‘Dood’ Pritchard, an inmate who died in July, Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye released two-page statement on Thursday, a few days after District Attorney Jerry Wilson concluded that the officers involved acted within the confines of the law.
“I felt making any statement until the incident was completely and thoroughly investigated, all facts were gathered and a decision by the District Attorney concluded would only further hurt Mr. Pritchard’s family and could cause false or misguided conclusions or speculation,” Frye said, adding that the investigation into Pritchard’s death was as thorough as he has seen in his career.
Pritchard died on July 10, the day after he was placed in the Avery County Jail after the sheriff’s office responded to Pritchard’s residence when receiving a distress call from an acquaintance of Pritchard. Under the influence of “a large variety and quantity of narcotics,” deputies tasered Pritchard numerous times as he fluctuated from passive and aggressive behavior, according to the investigation.
The medical examiner, according to Frye, concluded that the tasings didn’t cause Pritchard’s death.
Following his death, a Facebook page titled ‘Justice for Dood Boy’ was created and a rally protest was held in Newland for Pritchard. Family and friends declared that Pritchard, no matter what he previously did to go to jail, should have received medical care following the multiple tasings.
Frye said that Pritchard wasn’t delivered to the hospital because he didn’t show “present symptoms of distress or make complaints of distress” and was able to walk into the jail under his own power.
“The only complaint he had was his left handcuff was hurting his wrist. As soon as he mentioned this, his cuffs were taken off and he willingly complied with orders,” Frye wrote in the statement.
Read Sheriff Kevin Frye’s entire statement below:
“I have waited until both the SBI investigation was completed and the District Attorney’s decision was confirmed before making any statement about the in custody death of Mr. Dood Pritchard. I felt making any statement until the incident was completely and thoroughly investigated, all facts were gathered and a decision by the District Attorney concluded would only further hurt Mr. Pritchard’s family and could cause false or misguided conclusions or speculation. In many years of law enforcement I can say this case was as completely and thoroughly investigated as any I have ever seen, dozens of interviews and re-interviews, audio and video recordings, and documentation analysis. The completeness and total quality of this investigation by agents of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation I hope gives everyone confidence in the fact nothing illegal or inappropriate occurred. There is however a couple points which have been mentioned either in press or social media which I can now clarify.
“First is the speculation there was excessive force used at Mr. Pritchard’s residence on the initial call and this contributed to the death. Deputies only used the TASER in an effort to overcome Mr. Pritchard’s resistance to their efforts to assist him. During this time Mr. Pritchard either continued to struggle or tried to make his way down a hallway where deputies recovered a loaded handgun that had been reported stolen. The TASER use was reasonable under the circumstances and played no role in Mr. Pritchard’s death, as Mr. Pritchard’s death was more than twelve hours after the deputies used any force against him. According to the medical examiner, there simply was no relation and could be no relation between the use of the TASER and Mr. Pritchard’s death.
“This leads to another area which has been of concern, which is why was Mr. Pritchard not taken to the hospital. Mr. Pritchard arrived at the jail in an intoxicated condition, but was very much conscious, coherent and cooperative. He did not seem to be in any distress and walked into the jail under his own power and the only complaint he had was his left handcuff was hurting his wrist. As soon as he mentioned this, his cuffs were taken off and he willingly complied with orders. We take in people every day as part of our job, which are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We take those to the hospital who present symptoms of distress or make complaints of distress, and Mr. Pritchard did neither. It was obvious he could let us know if he was in distress, just as he did with the handcuff being too tight. I asked the medical examiner why Mr. Pritchard did not present more symptoms with the large amount of drugs in his system. I was told it was because the methamphetamine and other drugs could have counteracted with each other over time and symptomatically he may have seemed only slightly impaired. That is until over twelve hours later when his system just could not function any further. My jailers did everything according to protocol and even checked on Mr. Pritchard an average of every eight minutes instead of every fifteen minutes as required. At around 10:15am, about 10 hours after Mr. Pritchard was admitted into the jail, one of my jailers even pulled up a chair next to the cell and carried on an approximate 10 minute conversation. Less than two minutes before Mr. Pritchard was found unresponsive, he was checked on by a jailer and was ok. This is why no one was suspended, fired or disciplined, as there was nothing I could see where anyone did anything illegal or against policy. This was a tragic event, one unfortunately seen all too often, of drugs bringing an end to a life all too soon. I know this will not satisfy or provide closure to Mr. Pritchard’s family and friends, but the truth is the only factor which caused his death was the drugs he consumed. Too many young people and adults in our county are losing the battle with addictions, and too many are leaving behind family and friends far too quickly. Whether it is in a home, at a party or in jail, sometimes there are irreversible consequences to consumption of controlled substances, and this is the battle we should all join together to fight.”