Inmate dies in custody

An inmate at the Allen County Jail died by suicide on June 24. The incident is under investigation.


Local News

July 5, 2024 - 2:12 PM

Photo by (Dreamstime/TNS)

Allen County Sheriff Bryan Murphy confirmed Friday that a suicide had occurred at the county jail on June 24. Phil Churning, an inmate in the jail, died while in custody. Murphy noted that an ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Efforts to contact the KBI on Friday were unsuccessful because of the holiday.

In a letter to the editor printed in Friday’s edition of the Register, Churning’s older brother William alleged corrections officers were notified several times of his brother’s depression and need for mental health resources. “They told him they couldn’t help him because they had no one there to help him,” the letter noted.

According to Murphy, after-hours mental health services were contacted upon Churning’s request and protocol was followed. Murphy did not say whether Churning was visited by a mental health professional. The jail uses SEK Mental Health for its inmates.

Deputies do not receive specific training as far as mental health issues, Murphy said, but they are frequently a component of training sessions. “It’s not mandatory. If we run across something, we will talk about it,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Office will be holding two first aid and mental health training sessions this month.

In follow-up calls to Allen County Commissioners, each said they had not been notified of the incident.

“That’s a high liability situation and we should know about it,” said Commissioner Jerry Daniels.

Commissioner David Lee echoed those sentiments. “I was not aware of it. Keep in mind the sheriff is an elected official and it’s his show to run,” said Lee. “But, it would be nice to know these things.”

Commissioner Bruce Symes chose not to comment on the situation.

In the last 20 years, there have been two suicides reported at the Allen County Jail.

October 19, 2021
January 31, 2020
February 13, 2019
October 10, 2013