Target 8 report leads sheriff to reopen jail death case

Target 8

Warning: The video included above may be disturbing to viewers. Discretion is advised.


MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office has reopened its investigation into the death of a jail inmate in response to a Target 8 investigation.

A Target 8 review of surveillance video from the jail revealed that a guard had watched an inmate suffer one of his 17 seizures, then walked away.

Sheriff Michael Poulin said on Thursday that his department’s internal investigation had not uncovered that.

“I wanted to see what you were seeing on the video, if there was something that was missed,” Poulin said.

The sheriff’s department had closed its investigation into the April 4 death of Paul Bulthouse, finding no wrongdoing. But Poulin told Target 8 he reopened it Wednesday morning, less than nine hours after the TV report aired.

Target 8’s investigation was based on video obtained from the jail through a public records request.

One view was from Bulthouse’s one-man detox cell, the other came from outside his cell. Viewers can toggle back and forth to see exactly what’s happening inside and out, down to the second.

From the outside, it shows a jail deputy stopping at Bulthouse’s cell door at 2:54:16 a.m. on April 4.

From the view inside his cell, it shows exactly what the guard watched — the last 11 seconds of a seizure. The deputy walked away as the seizure ended.

Nobody from the jail’s medical staff checked on Bulthouse again, as he suffered a dozen more seizures over the next 2.5 hours before he died naked and alone in a puddle of his own urine.

If the new investigation confirms what Target 8 found, the sheriff said the deputy should have gotten help.

“If there’s a medical situation that’s going on at the time, absolutely,” Poulin said.

The sheriff said the detective sergeant who conducted the internal investigation had watched the same videos, but, unlike Target 8, had not viewed them side-by-side to see what the guard was watching.

“They looked at this one, the outside camera, then they looked at the inside camera,” Poulin said. “He didn’t ever put the two together.”

The sheriff said his office plans to send the videos to the surveillance camera vendor to confirm Target 8’s findings. He said he also plans to talk to medical staff about its policy on providing medication to inmates.

Bulthouse’s doctor said the jail had cut off his Klonopin, which can lead to seizures and death. The jail’s policy does not allow inmates to take the drug.

The sheriff said he is also looking at installing another monitor for guards to watch inmates. The Michigan Department of Corrections requires jail guards to continuously monitor inmates in detox cells, but the video shows guards rarely paying attention to the single monitor.

Poulin said it’s not clear if anyone would lose their job over the death.

“We’re going to have to go through that due process,” he said. “At this point, I still don’t know what happened.”

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