Justice Dept. Probes Nevada Jail Deaths

The U.S. Justice Department plans to review the

death of a French man who collapsed in jail after a violent

struggle with guards.

Philippe Le Menn's death on Jan. 4 will form part of the department's ongoing investigation into conditions at the Clark County jail, Justice Department spokeswoman Casey Stavropoulos said Wednesday. She refused to provide details.

Le Menn, a 33-year-old restaurant manager, is the 24th jail inmate to die from suicide or "natural causes" since the Justice Department began its probe in 1997. Autopsy results regarding the Frenchman's death are pending.

Security-camera footage, parts of which aired on a CBS News report, showed the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Le Menn going limp after five guards repeatedly pushed him and squirted him with pepper spray during a struggle.

Erratic Behavior

Le Menn, an illegal immigrant from France, was arrested for disorderly conduct hours earlier after police said he grabbed a child and banged on the doors of a school bus. Friends said he'd been acting erratically days before his death.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada said Le Menn was unnecessarily beaten by guards and Le Menn's cousin, Philip Moreau, alleges he died of head injuries during the struggle.

But the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which administers the jail, denied Le Menn was beaten to death and said the coroners' report would show whether a crime was committed.

The Attorney General's office said Wednesday it would wait for the coroner's ruling before deciding whether to launch its own investigation.

Deputy Police Chief Bill Young, who oversees operations at the 12-story facility, said that since 1997 and prior to Le Menn's death, there have been 10 suicides and 13 deaths from natural causes — anything from heart attack to injuries sustained in fights.

Young said he considered the numbers low, considering the jail had an average daily population of 2,325 in 2000 .