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Utah Prison Inmate Death is a Homicide, Autopsy Finds

Utah Department of Corrections
Christopher Lee Lucas

The Utah Medical Examiner's Office has ruled the death of state prison inmate Christopher Lee Lucas a homicide. The death occurred last fall after corrections officers used pepper spray to break up a fight between Lucas and another inmate.

The State Medical Examiner's Office found that 25-year-old Christopher Lee Lucas died of cardiopulmonary arrest following a physical altercation and pepper spray exposure. The death was ruled a homicide. Utah Department of Corrections spokesperson Brooke Adams says officers deployed pepper spray after their verbal orders were ignored. Lucas collapsed as he was being walked out of the cell. Adams says he was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“At the time, four correctional officers who were involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave,” Adams says. “Those officers returned to work after approximately two weeks, following an initial investigation that determined that the use of force to stop the assault was appropriate.”

Now that they have the results of the autopsy, Adams says an investigation by the Department of Corrections' Law Enforcement Bureau will revisit the decision on whether the use of force was appropriate. The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office will screen that investigation. In the meantime, Adams says, the four corrections officers remain on duty. The Unified Police Department is also conducting a criminal investigation.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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