Suspect Howell’s cell death ruled a homicide

Kitsap County Coroner determines man died of restraint asphyxia

PORT ORCHARD — The Kitsap County Coroner issued a report Thursday indicating that Sean Michael Howell, a man being restrained by corrections officers May 9 in a Kitsap County Jail crisis cell after attempting to tamper with the cell’s sprinkler system, died due to restraint asphyxia.

The coroner’s office ruled the death was a homicide. The Kitsap Critical Incident Response Team (KCIRT), a multi-agency investigatory body, was brought in shortly after Howell died to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. The Washington State Patrol is the lead investigating agency for KCIRT, according to a news release issued by the state agency.

The 28-year-old man was arrested May 8 by the Bremerton Police Department and booked into a crisis cell at Kitsap County Jail for first-degree murder.

At around 10:30 a.m. on May 9, corrections officers discovered that Howell was attempting to tamper with the cell’s sprinkler. According to the report, the officers tried to restrain the suspect with the intention of moving him to a different cell. At that point, Howell began to violently resist their efforts, resulting in him and a corrections officer being injured. Both individuals were transported to a hospital for treatment. The officer was treated and released. Howell, however, died of his injuries on the morning of May 15.

KCIRT is continuing its investigation of the incident and the suspect’s death, according to WSP officials. The agency said in the news release that additional details will be shared with the public when they become available. Inquiries into the homicide case are being directed to the Bremerton Police Department, WSP officials added.