Police identify hanged inmate

Police on Tuesday identified Michael Thomas Purnell, 50, of Lake Elsinore as the man found dead after he apparently hanged himself in his Newport Beach Police Department jail cell last week.

Purnell was found about 2 p.m. Thursday when a custodial officer was early for an hourly routine check, according to Sgt. Evan Sailor. Purnell was arrested that day on various criminal warrants and there was no indication that he was suicidal, Sailor said.

The custodial officer tried to save Purnell and called paramedics, who tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"This was the first in-custody death I'm aware of in about 25 years," Sailor said.

The Orange County district attorney's office is conducting a standard investigation of the case.

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