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Found with seatbelt around neck
Emma Lewis died in sheriff’s transport van

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

The woman who died in the back of a Platte County Sheriff’s Department transport van was found “with a seatbelt around her neck while still handcuffed with her hands behind her back,” according to a sheriff’s department incident report obtained by The Landmark.

Emma Lewis, age 50 of Platte City, died in the back of the transport van the afternoon of June 9 after being arrested for violation of a full order of protection, resisting arrest, and assault on a police officer. She was being transported from a Platte City residence to the jail in Platte City. The transport ride was about five minutes long, authorities said.

When deputies opened the rear door of the van upon arrival at the jail, the report says Lewis was found “not breathing” and without a pulse. Attempts to revive her failed and she was pronounced dead by Northland Regional Ambulance District paramedics, according to the report.

The police report indicates Lewis was found “face down in the middle of the floor of the jail van, with her head toward the cab.” The report indicates Lewis had threatened suicide and had intentionally banged her head on the ground and against the inside wall of the jail van during her encounter with authorities that afternoon.

Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen has asked the Clay County Sheriff’s Department to conduct the investigation into the death of Lewis. That investigation is continuing.

Court records viewed by The Landmark show Lewis, of the 11000 block of Hwy. 92 in Platte City, was going through a divorce. Two sheriff’s deputies had arrived at the residence to serve an order of protection on the afternoon of the incident. Sources told The Landmark the husband, the respondent in the divorce case, had sought the order of protection against Lewis.

Two sheriff’s deputies had arrived at the residence at 2 p.m. that day to serve the order of protection.

The officers say they knocked on the door and a pit bull was inside, barking at the officers through the window. One of the officers reported being at this address previously “and there were two dogs inside, one of which was not friendly and was put up before we entered the residence on that occasion.”

After receiving no answer at the door, the officer began to walk away and observed Lewis walking quickly to her Jeep in the driveway. She put some of her belongings in the back of the Jeep.

According to the report, when Lewis saw the officers she exclaimed “What?!?” in an angry tone and slammed the rear gate of the Jeep.

One of the officers then began to explain the protection order to her. The deputies say Lewis was argumentative and told them she was in the process of moving her items out. She was told the officers would give her a few minutes to gather some personal items and then she would have to leave.

The officers say Lewis then turned and began to walk away from them around the east side of the house. She was told she would need to put the dog away and that the officers were coming into the residence with her.

According to a written narrative of the incident by one of the officers, “Lewis stated something to the effect of ‘No, you aren’t’ and attempted to walk away from us.”

One of the officers then grabbed Lewis’s left arm and told her she was under arrest for violating the order of protection. Police say Lewis tried to pull away and was told to put her hands behind her back. The second officer grabbed Lewis’s right arm and placed it behind her back, and she was handcuffed with her hands behind her back, according to the police report.

Lewis then “lifted her legs in the air as dead weight. We sat her on the ground and she rolled over, face down, and began to bang her head on the grass. Lewis began to kick her legs and kicked me in the leg inadvertently. I then called for the jail van to transport her to the Platte County Jail,” the officer wrote in his report.

The report indicates Lewis continued to be non-compliant.

“Lewis was yelling at us and told us that she could not breathe, while laying on the ground,” the report says, adding that the officers rolled her over on her back several times.

“Lewis would then bang the back of her head on the ground, then rolled back over face down again and began to bang her head on the ground and kick her legs,” the report states, adding that Lewis repeated that behavior.

The woman “continued to yell at us and told us that she was going to kill herself. She told us that she had attempted suicide four times in the past and she would get it right this time,” according to the officers. “She then began to complain that she was claustrophobic.”

A third deputy then arrived on the scene. This deputy retrieved an emergency blanket and placed it behind the head of Lewis, “to cushion her head from her banging it on the ground,” the report says.

Lewis then scooted away from the blanket and banged her head on the ground again, according to police.

She then rolled over face down and eventually sat up. While sitting on the ground, she told officers she was claustrophobic “and had not taken her medication for being bi-polar. Lewis continued with suicidal threats and yelling at us,” the report says.

The jail transport van arrived.

“While the van was turning in front of us, Lewis stood up and attempted to throw herself in front of the rear wheels of the jail van,” the report says, adding that two officers grabbed her arms to pull her back.

According to the police report, Lewis then kicked one of the officers in the leg.

Lewis was then escorted inside the rear of the van “and told not to kick us.” One deputy worked to fasten her seatbelt “while she was moving” and another held Lewis’s legs back against the bench where she was seated to prevent her from kicking the officers, according to the report.

“I told Lewis to sit back as she continued to squirm around. I pushed Lewis’s chest, placing her back against the right wall of the van,” wrote one of the officers, while another deputy “could finish putting on her seatbelt and tightening it.”

The van door was closed and Lewis began to bank her head on the inside wall of the jail van and kick the door, according to the police report.

The driver of the jail van transported Lewis to the jail, with the two original responding offices following. One of the officers called a department captain on the phone “to notify him of the call and use of force,” the report states.

Upon arrival at the jail, a deputy opened the rear door of the van “and we found Lewis laying face down in the middle of the floor of the jail van with her head toward the cab. Lewis was found with a seatbelt around her neck, while remaining handcuffed with her hands behind her back. Lewis was not breathing and we did not find a pulse. Lewis had also vomited on herself,” according to the report.

An ambulance was ordered.

“We removed her from the rear of the jail van and (two deputies) started chest compressions. While doing compressions, Lewis had a lot of stomach contents coming from her mouth and nose. We turned Lewis on her side to drain her mouth and remove what contents we could and continued chest compressions. With the amount of stomach contents continuously coming out of Lewis’s mouth and nose, artificial respiration was not attempted,” the report states.

“We continued chest compressions until we were relieved by NRAD paramedics,” the report says.

The report concludes with:

“Lewis was later pronounced dead by NRAD paramedics and the scene was released to the investigations division.”