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Man dies at Pima County jail; choice of investigation team points to guards being involved
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Man dies at Pima County jail; choice of investigation team points to guards being involved

4 people have died at jail so far in 2022

  • Pima County Sheriff's Deputies and corrections officers stand outside the jail during a protest against jail deaths in Feb. 2022.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comPima County Sheriff's Deputies and corrections officers stand outside the jail during a protest against jail deaths in Feb. 2022.

The Pima Regional Critical Incident Team will review the case of a man who died Tuesday evening at the Pima County jail, officials said.

Around 8 p.m., corrections officers at the Pima County Adult Detention Complex reported an "in-custody death" and later identified the man as 37-year-old Wade Welch. The circumstances of investigation into his death point to guards at the jail being involved in a use-of-force incident.

Welch was booked into the jail on August 15, and was charged with domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and domestic violence threats and intimidation, said Deputy Marissa Hernandez, a PCSD spokeswoman.

Pima County's jail has come under increasing scrutiny after 10 people died at the jail in 2021, once every 31 days. Thus far in 2022, five people have died while in custody at the jail, including Welch.

In February, dozens of people, including family members who lost loved ones, protested in front of the jail.

Few details were released by the Pima County Sheriff's Department, however, Hernandez said the investigation will be handled by the Tucson Police Department as part of the Pima Regional Critical Incident Team.

"At the request of Pima County Sheriff’s Department, the Pima Regional Critical Incident Team has been activated to conduct the investigation," said Hernandez. "Tucson Police Department will be the lead investigating agency," she said.

Launched in March, PRCIT is tasked with reviewing major incidents and allows law enforcement officers from a separate agency to take the lead in criminal investigations of those events.

While some jail deaths will be handled by PCSD detectives, the deaths of detainees and inmates suspected of resulting from force by corrections officers will be included in the cases investigated by the new team, officials said when they announced the team. 

The inclusion of the critical incident team signals Welch's death is connected to the use of force by jail guards. 

In mid-May, the Sheriff's Department announced the death of Alejandro Romo at the jail.

Around 5:30 a.m. on May 13, a corrections officer found Romo, 47, unresponsive in his cell and called for medical assistance. According to a statement released by the Sheriff's Department, staff "immediately entered the cell and began administering emergency life-saving measures" while waiting for medics from the Tucson Fire Department. TFD personnel arrived and declared Romo dead.

Detectives with the Sheriff's Department's own Criminal Investigations Division reviewed Romo's death and found "no signs of trauma or suspicious circumstances," said PCSD.

An autopsy conducted by the Pima County Medical Examiner ruled Romo's death an accident, caused by "acute fentanyl and methamphetamine intoxication."

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