Teenage offender hangs self with seat belt in police car

By Rick Yencer

ANDERSON, IN -  A teenager found at the scene of a burglary later hung himself with a seat belt while handcuffed in the back of a police car.

Dead is Jace Zook, 17, who apparently died from suffocation despite attempts by police to revive him. Zook was taken to St. John's Hospital where he was pronounced dead around 5 a.m. Wednesday. Madison County Coroner Ned Dunnichay is conducting an autopsy that will likely find the cause of death as suffocation.

 It is the first time in Anderson police history that a suspect died in the back of a police car, and the Indiana State Police will investigate the death and the results will be reviewed by the county prosecutor's office to ensure there was no wrongdoing. The city asked for the investigation.

 Anderson Police Chief Larry Crenshaw called the incident a tragic situation as Mayor Kevin Smith expressed sadness about the teenager who died while in police custody.

 "Our heart goes out to the family of the child that passed away while in police custody." said Smith. "It is a tragic situation when a death occurs with a person of such a young age."

 What ISP found so far was that Anderson police were called to investigate a burglary alarm around 12:17 a.m. at the Madison County Shrine Club in the 2900 block of White Street. Officers found  three teenagers on the rooftop and placed them in handcuffs and put them in separate police cars and then continued to search for suspects.

 When one of the officers returned, they found Zook did a Houdini and moved his handcuffed hands from behind his back to the front of his body, according to ISP Sgt. John Bowling. Zook then used the seat belt to strangle himself by forcing his body to the lower portion of the back seat, according to Anderson officer who found him.

 Bowling indicated ISP detectives would interview police and the other suspects and issue a report that would be reviewed by the Madison County Prosecutor's office. 

 Anderson police reported that Zook, a 17-year-old youth, and Justin Johnson, 18, Anderson, were allegedly trying to steal money and alcohol from the Shrine Club. 

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