Cape man dies while in police custody early Tuesday

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Cape Girardeau man died early Tuesday morning while in police custody, authorities said.

The body of Lawrence Adolphe Thompson III, 55, was found hanging in a holding room of the Cape Girardeau Police Department around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, said Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton.

Thompson had been involved in a single-car accident earlier that night at Shamrock Court and Silver Springs Road, hitting a stairwell with his vehicle, said Sgt. Barry Hovis, spokesman for the police department. Thompson was placed in custody after midnight pending charges of driving while intoxicated,

He was transported to the police department on Sprigg Street, where he would have been booked, fingerprinted and processed into the municipal jail overnight. Shortly after 1 a.m., Thompson was placed in a small holding room with a grated window and a single wooden bench.

In accordance with department policy, an officer checked on Thompson hourly, Hovis said.

The last time he was checked, at 3:50 a.m., he appeared to be fine, but an officer discovered his body hanging from the latticework of the ceiling about 40 minutes later, Hovis said.

The noose had been fashioned out of clothing.

Department policy dictates that any person placed in the temporary holding room may keep all personal items, with the exception of weapons and controlled substances, Hovis said. Upon transfer to the city jail upstairs, the person is asked to surrender all effects, including clothing.

There are no set guidelines that indicate how long a person can remain in the holding room, but sometimes with DWI cases, the subject will be allowed to sober up there before being taken to the jail, Hovis said.

Because the death occurred while Thompson was in custody, Clifton scheduled an inquest at 6 p.m. Sept. 22. The location has not yet been decided. The inquest will be used to rule out foul play and help determine the cause of death.

In addition to the coroner's investigation, Cape Girardeau police chief Carl Kinnison has asked the Missouri State Highway Patrol to conduct an independent investigation. Cape Girardeau police will conduct an internal investigation to make certain all policies were properly followed, Hovis said.

In 2001, Thompson pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in Scott County.

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