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News Sheriff’s office responds to first inmate death in a decade

State officials are investigating the death of an inmate that was being held at the Macon County Detention Center earlier this month. The death, which occurred on Saturday, May 3, is the first incident of its kind in Macon County since Sheriff Robbie Holland has taken office.

According to an incident report, jailer Holly Bradley was making rounds Friday evening at the detention center when she was asked by 34-year-old inmate Stephen Paul Johnson of Franklin for his medicine. She informed the inmate that meds were given at 2200 hours (10 p.m.).

Bradley reported that 10 minutes after speaking to Johnson, Dr. Creel called to request to speak to Johnson regarding the medicines he was supposed to take. Dr. Creel was unsure of Johnson’s medicines because at the time of arrest, Johnson was inebriated. At approximately 2150 hours (9:50 p.m.), Bradley returned to Johnson’s cell to get his vitals for Dr. Creel when she noticed that he was not breathing. “I called the door, checked for a pulse and radioed for control to call 911,” reads Bradley’s report. “I also radioed for assistance from Officer Jiglau. After finding no pulse, I started chest compression. Several deputies assisted in the incident.”

The incident reports that Sergeant Thomas Tenhagen placed the AED pads on Johnson as Bradley continued chest compressions. Franklin Fire Department first responders arrived within minutes and took over operations.

“Our initial investigation will show that our staff did an outstanding job and made a valiant effort to save Mr. Johnson's life,” said Holland. “The detention officers immediately rendered aid and began CPR and in my book are heroes for placing their own safety at risk in order to render that aid. Deputies and detention officers as well as medical first responders and EMS personnel did all they could to save Mr. Johnson's life.”

Johnson was arrested on Friday evening for a misdemeanor count of assault on a female and for possession of a controlled substance and for illegal liquor (moonshine). Although Johnson was arrested Friday evening, it was not the first call regarding a domestic disturbance at the residence. Officers also responded Thursday night to a similar call at Johnson’s residence.

According to Johnson’s original arrest report, Officer Anthony Hopkins and Sergeant Tenhagen responded to a domestic dispute call at Johnson’s residence on Moses Road. Dispatch advised responding officers that Melissa Barnes was the victim and reported that Johnson had grabbed Barnes by her ankle and dragged her through the house and grabbed her by the arm.

During the arrest, Johnson denied Barnes’ claims. Officers detected a strong odor of alcohol on Johnson and Barnes informed them he had been drinking white liquor. Johnson allowed officers to search the house for the alcohol, which was found in the bedroom, where Johnson said it would be. The white liquor, along with a bottle of oxycodone, for which he was prescribed, and 13, 1 mg and 4, .5 mg Alprazolam tablets, which were not in the correct subscribed container, were seized for evidence.

Once taken to the detention center, Johnson was placed on secure lockdown for further monitoring due to his apparent intoxication. Sheriff Holland confirmed Johnson had been placed in a lock-down cell for approximately 21 hours under observation at all times. “He was very belligerent when he came in but calmed down after a couple of hours. He did not give any of my staff problems after he calmed down and acted appropriate,” said Holland.

An autopsy was performed on Monday and no clear indication as to cause of death was available in the preliminary report, Holland said. “We are conducting the investigation and awaiting toxicology of that autopsy. The deceased had several medical issues prior to his death.”

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