By Brittany Hailer
Details are scarce about the death of an incarcerated man at the Allegheny County Jail over the July 4 weekend.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office identified Martin Bucek, 55, as the county jail resident who died July 3. He was found unresponsive in a single cell at the jail, according to an email sent to the Jail Oversight Board (JOB) by President Judge Kimberly Berkeley Clark, who serves as chair of the board. Sources provided the email to the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (PINJ) yesterday.
An incarcerated individual contacted a PINJ reporter to notify them that someone had died within the jail and expressed concern that the death was going unreported.
According to an email from the medical examiner, Bucek was transferred to UPMC Mercy Hospital and lists that location as his place of death. However, in an email Wednesday to the jail oversight board, Clark wrote, “A resident was found unresponsive in his cell and paramedics were called. Both staff and paramedics performed CPR without success.”
No manner or cause of death has been reported by the county or medical examiner. According to court records, Bucek was arrested at St. Clair Hospital on June 23. He was later taken to the ACJ.
Allegheny County Councilmember Bethany Hallam, a member of the JOB, expressed concerns about Bucek’s death.
“Study after study shows that jails are the most dangerous days after someone is booked. Regardless of how he lost his life, he was just brought there and he is no longer alive,” Hallam said, “They had a moral obligation to protect him.”
Hallam said she contacted Clark yesterday when she said she found out about Bucek’s death from sources inside of the jail. She said it was only after she inquired, that the JOB was notified that Bucek had died.
In her email sent to the JOB, Clark wrote, “Warden Harper was on vacation at the time and Deputy Warden Williams did attempt to contact me. She left me a voicemail message, but I did not check my voicemails. I was spending time with my family this weekend and I typically do not answer my phone if I do not recognize the number. I now have Deputy Warden Williams’ number, so this should not be an issue in the future.”
Hallam said this is not how the JOB should find out about the loss of life at the jail.
“What is supposed to happen is jail administration sends an email (that) a death occurred on this pod, this is why, and if it is being investigated. That did not happen this time. For the millionth time, I find out from the media and people in the jail. Only after I sent that email did I get an email from the judge,” Hallam said.
Hallam said that this burden shouldn’t just fall on Clark’s shoulders.
“The jail administration refuses to reach out to the board members. They filter that through Judge Clark and put that burden on her shoulders which isn’t fair,” Hallam said.
County officials could not immediately be reached for comment.