The community has expressed significant concern, and righteously, about a recent death in the Pima County Jail. In our commitment to transparency, we are providing this update on that investigation.
First, as a matter of clarification, I note that the Pima County Attorney’s Office is not the office with oversight of the Pima County Jail. The Pima County Sheriff, who is our client, oversees jail operations. Deaths can occur inside the Pima County Jail due to illness, overdose, and suicide and therefore are not criminal matters in which our office is involved.
For matters involving operations, medical care, adequate staffing, etc., the Attorney General and the Department of Justice monitor jails and have authority to take action when appropriate.
On the night of Aug. 16, 2022, when Mr. Welch died while in custody, our Chief Criminal Deputy was called to the Pima County Jail. I was briefed soon after. Since that time, this has been an ongoing criminal investigation. For example, on Sept. 19, our office was updated with some of the preliminary expert input.
The death of Mr. Welch is being investigated by the Pima Regional Critical Incident Team (PRCIT), a multi-agency team of investigators, in this case, led by the Tucson Police Department. This is a team of investigators from law enforcement agencies throughout Pima County that was formed in an effort toward fair and thorough investigations when law enforcement officers become involved in incidents involving injury or death.
If PRCIT brings forward evidence of criminal activity, the Pima County Attorney will review what happened and make decisions about whether the evidence available shows beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual or individuals should be criminally charged. Our office remains involved with PRCIT as the investigation continues and I am being kept apprised as the case develops. However, we are restricted by ethical rules and can make no further comments about this ongoing criminal investigation at this time.
These matters are complex, and as I have stated in past investigations, we will take the time to make certain we do this right and not rushed in our pursuit of justice.
I will continue to keep the community informed to the extent that I can without jeopardizing either the ongoing investigation or violating the ethical rules and our office’s duty when that investigation is complete.