Leadville man dies after 16 hours in detox | VailDaily.com
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Leadville man dies after 16 hours in detox

Renee Davis

LEADVILLE ” A long-time Leadville resident died Saturday after spending about 16 hours in a Lake County Jail detoxification cell block.

Stephen Morgan Began, 50, was pronounced dead Aug. 26 at Swedish Medical Center in Denver, said Lake County Coroner Debbie Bailey.

The death is under investigation by the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said he was not willing to comment while the case was under investigation, but he did say his office was looking into whether the death was accidental or not. He estimates the investigation will take several weeks.

The preliminary medical examiner’s report indicates Began suffered a closed-head injury, Bailey said. The medical examiner’s report ruled the blunt force trauma was consistent with a fall, Bailey said.

The incident leading to Began’s death began Aug. 24 just before midnight.

Leadville police were dispatched to a residence on Chestnut Street on a report of an alleged disturbance and an alleged assault that occurred earlier in the evening.

Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte said he wasn’t aware if there was a fight, but Began allegedly had a history of altercations with another local man.

Leadville police and Lake County deputies responded to the scene.

According to Lake County Sheriff’s reports, Deputies Ed Reinhardt and Deputy Jason Shannon found Began lying in front of the residence. Deputies reported smelling alcohol on Began’s breath. Reports indicate officers tried to revive Began, but he was unresponsive.

Reinhardt reported seeing blood coming from Began’s left nostril when they found him.

Began was taken to St. Vincent Hospital by Leadville police officers.

According to deputy reports, medical staff at the hospital examined and released Began. Deputy reports say Leadville officers decided Began should be placed in the county’s detoxification cell. Began was transported that night to the Lake County Jail for detoxification.

Leadville Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies set up a schedule to check Began every half hour while he was in the detox cell, deputies’ reports say. The cell also was monitored by camera.

Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte said his department was working to retrieve the video records from the cell to determine if Began fell and hit his head.

At 2:25 a.m., Aug. 25, Deputy Travis Arnett reported that the night dispatcher heard odd sounds coming from Began’s cell. Arnett went to check on Began and reported that Began had vomited and was on his side. Began was breathing and “sounded like snoring,” Arnett’s report says.

By 5:51 p.m., Began was found slumped on the toilet, with his head between his knees, Arnett’s report says.

Both Reinhardt and Arnett reported seeing blood coming from Began’s nose.

Just before 6 p.m. deputies decided to call the ambulance because Began’s condition had not changed, reported Shannon.

Ambulance crew transported Began to St. Vincent General Hospital, but it is unclear what happened to Began after the ambulance crew took him. But at some point Began was transported to Swedish Medical Center in Denver, where he was pronounced dead Saturday.

St. Vincent CEO David Zaitz declined to comment.

Police Chief Jim Zoller, who is on vacation, said he was not aware of the incident, and Assistant Police Chief Rod Fenske did not return calls as of press time.

Chronicle Staff Writer Renee Davis can be reached at (719) 486-3666 or rdavis@vaildaily.com.

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