NEW ORLEANS - A 36-year-old man being held in Orleans Parish jail on rape charges died Thursday, according to a statement from Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office.
The inmate, Wardel Taylor, collapsed “with apparent cardiac arrest,” according to the statement from Dr. Samuel Gore, the prison’s medical director.
“He received immediate attention by the Sheriff’s Office Medical Staff and Orleans Parish EMS,” the statement reads.
Taylor was taken to Interim LSU Hospital and pronounced dead shortly later. A preliminary autopsy showed he died of a heart attack, according to Gore.
The press release does not give specifics about when, nor where Taylor collapsed or how he was found. Follow-up questions to the public relations agency retained by Gusman were not immediately returned.
Police booked Taylor into jail Jan. 3 on an aggravated rape charge. He was incorrectly booked under his older brother Kevin’s identity. Wardel Taylor was being held on $150,000 bond, with a trial date set for May.
His death comes amid heavy scrutiny of Gusman and his jail facilities.
After years of resisting outside scrutiny and oversight, Gusman has agreed to a wholesale set of reforms. This comes via a federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. But the two former combatants, now colleagues, are now in a pitched battle with the city over the cost of funding the jail, which falls largely to the city.
Earlier this week, Gusman deflected criticisms of inmate safety, in light of last month's in-custody death of 26-year-old Ricky Russell.
Gusman noted that the prison facility is “well within the national average” when it comes to inmate deaths.
“If you look at our stats and get away from the histrionics, the fact is, we didn't have any deaths in 2011,” he told reporters following an appearance at a City Council hearing.