Sheriff confirms death of woman at detention center, slams opponent

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren confirmed the recent death of a woman at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center Monday while accusing his challenger in the upcoming election of capitalizing on the death for political gain.

In a statement Monday, Warren said the woman in question hung herself only 21 minutes after talking to deputies at the detention center.

“The young woman that took her own life is being exploited for political gain as have other deaths that have occurred to those in our custody,” Warren said in the statement. “THIS IS SAD!”

Warren was apparently referring to a statement from Cobb County Police Dept. Maj. Craig Owens, a Democrat running to unseat Warren in November.

Over the weekend, Owens released a statement accusing his opponent of negligence and mismanaging the jail.

“Sheriff Warren continues to show complete disregard for the care of Cobb County detainees,” Owens said. “He can no longer be trusted to maintain the health and safety of the Cobb Detention Center’s detainees. It’s time for the GBI to investigate the sheriff’s office and the unfortunate deaths of detainees under his watch.”

Warren said there was no indication the woman intended to take her own life.

“How would someone else being Sheriff have changed this outcome?” he said in his statement. “Short of standing over each and every inmate there is no way to stop this if someone has made up their mind to carry out this process.

“This person had family and friends that should not be subjected to the pathetic attempt to smear this agency for his own political gain,” the sheriff continued. “I have had enough of these shallow and uninformed statements by those looking to improve their retirement or are seeking a job for which they have no experience.”

Owens responded to the sheriff’s accusation Monday, saying Warren was “exploiting the sheriff’s office to cover up mistakes and deaths.”

“It’s telling that the sheriff deems a call for an independent review into detainee deaths as a personal attack,” he said in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately, Sheriff Warren is more concerned with his re-election than with addressing the numerous detainee deaths that have occurred on his watch. Another matter the sheriff continues to hide is the number of detainees and deputies who have contracted COVID-19.”

Warren also cast Owen’s comments as an attack on deputies at the detention center. He said a deputy tried to resuscitate the woman using CPR, to no avail.

“The Deputy did this and then had to punch a time-card and go home,” he said. “Our deputies and medical staff face things daily that would make the average citizen shake their heads in disbelief, then they must go home to their spouses and children and try to be normal, all while being attacked as abusive and uncaring. Shame on those that continue this narrative.”

Warren also took aim at the media, accusing news organizations of pursuing stories regarding the death of detention center inmates “to get votes, readers or viewers.”

“If you want to report on these tragedies do it when the Medical Examiner has released their conclusion,” he said. “Do it when I am free to discuss the incident without being limited in response due to pending litigation. That’s a coward’s way of insuring you get no response.”

The woman is the second to die under the sheriff’s custody at the detention center this year, and the ninth since late 2018. The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has organized two town halls in the past year at which former inmates alleged mistreatment at the detention center.

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