Coroner: Manner of death for York prison inmate could be revised
Everett Palmer Jr. died while in custody at the York County Prison last April. His mother questions the circumstances of his death. York Dispatch
Editor's note: This article originally was published July 30, 2018.
How a high level of methamphetamine wound up in the system of a Delaware man who died in York County Prison nearly four months ago remains a mystery.
York County Coroner Pam Gay said she simply doesn't know.
"That's obviously a question for other entities," she said. "All I can tell you is what was in his system."
Trooper James Spencer, a state police spokesman, said he cannot comment about details of the case because the investigation into Everett Palmer Jr.'s prison death remains active.
Short-term effects of meth include an increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as irregular heartbeat, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Palmer was in custody for two days before his April 9 death.
The cause of Palmer's death has been determined to be "complications following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint," according to a news release from Gay.
A probable sickling red-cell disorder was listed as a contributing factor to the death.
Gay has listed the manner of Palmer's death as undetermined, meaning despite an autopsy by a forensic pathologist and subsequent toxicology testing, experts can't determine the manner for certain at this point.
Manner of death can be natural, homicide, suicide, accidental or undetermined.
"That doesn't mean (the manner) can't be changed if more evidence (is found)," Gay said. "We definitely have some clear causes for his death; we just don't know how some of them happened."
She said her office generally has several undetermined deaths each year. At this point, she said she's waiting to see if the state police investigation uncovers information that will allow her to amend her ruling.
Gay released the autopsy results on Saturday, July 28.
Family's allegations: Marlon Kirton, a New York-based attorney representing Palmer's family, issued a statement in response to the autopsy results, thanking Gay "for reaching out to the Palmer family directly."
He and Palmer's loved ones remain unsatisfied because there has been no video released "and no detail as to the manner used to restrain Mr. Palmer," Kirton wrote.
"We still don't know why he died!! The family will press on to have an autopsy performed," he wrote in his email statement. "We will press on with our civil remedies. ... There is nothing today that changes our view that an unarmed Veteran and father of 2 died at the hands of law enforcement."
It remains unclear how prison staff restrained Palmer.
Gay said she is in contact with Palmer's family.
"They have a lot of questions and concerns too," she said. "We are going to work with them — I've promised them that."
The background: Palmer was in his York County Prison cell about 4:20 a.m. April 9 when he started hitting his head against his cell door after becoming agitated, according to the York County Coroner's Office.
Prison staff took him to the prison's medical clinic, according to Gay, who said "sometimes they have to use physical restraint to render assistance to people ... especially if they are self-harming."
Palmer, 41, of Seaford, Delaware, was then taken to York Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:46 a.m., according to the coroner's office.
At the time of his death, Palmer was locked up on DUI charges.
Charging documents state he crashed a Honda Accord in the 6500 block of Steltz Road in Codorus Township just after 2 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2016.
Palmer was charged with DUI, careless driving and failing to stay in his own lane.
Warrant issued: After he failed to respond to a court summons from the office of District Judge Tom Reilly, the judge issued an arrest warrant for Palmer on Jan. 23, 2017, court records state.
Palmer turned himself in on April 7 and was taken to prison on $5,000 bail.
Two days later, he was dead.
The York County District Attorney's Office has directed requests for comment to York County Commissioner Doug Hoke, who serves as president of the county's prison board.
York County spokesman Mark Walters declined comment on behalf of all three county commissioners and the prison.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.