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Bismarck jail cleared after inmate's death review, but not all family agrees

Kristina Kratz is the ex-wife of Mike Lang. Bismarck Tribune photo

BISMARCK—Five months after the death of an inmate of the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center, a state investigation into his death has concluded. Family members of the deceased have varied opinions on the results.

Mike Lang, 47, was taken off of life support and died Sept. 13, following a week in the hospital and days of testing after he had a medical event at the jail and subsequently went into a coma. His family said he had diabetes, pneumonia, low blood sugar, a cut on the back of his head, a broken nose, broken cheek bones and broken ribs.

Last week, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation released its death review regarding Lang. Burleigh County Sheriff's Maj. Steve Hall, assistant jail administrator, said the report clears the jail of any wrongdoing.

"Nothing that the detention center staff did was in error," Hall said of the jail's response to Lang's medical event, which he described as a heart attack but Lang's family said was a seizure.

The BCI report indicates jail staff's response was quicker than average, and staff provided attention until the Metro Area Ambulance arrived.

Kristina Kratz, Lang's fourth ex-wife, said she is at peace knowing the results of the BCI investigation. Since the state medical examiner ruled Lang's cause of death as a heart condition, she has been able to tell their 9-year-old daughter how her father died.

"Right now, I'm still trying to work with my daughter every day to get through it, and we just had another death in our family," Kratz said. "We're trying to deal with it one day at a time here."

Ckierra Lang, Lang's widow, disputes the circumstances of her husband's hospitalization, including the heart condition which reportedly killed him and how he came to have what she said was a seizure.

She said she believes Lang was beaten by another inmate up to three days before the seizure, likely for his criminal charge of luring minors.

"Seriously, nothing is adding up. None of it," she said, adding she has contacted an attorney for possible litigation.

"There was no assault or anything like that that occurred anywhere in our facility," Hall said, when asked about Lang's facial injuries.

He and Kratz both said Lang likely injured his face falling off his bottom bunk onto the floor, following his seizure or heart attack during the inmates' breakfast in their cell.

"If I'm reading it right, it sounds like he got (the injuries) when he hit the railing of the bunk or when he hit the floor," Kratz said. "That's what I kind of have playing in my mind."

Kratz previously said EMTs broke Lang's ribs during CPR. The BCI report said he hit the back of his head on the rail of the bunk before falling off.

"I looked at the video in passing and he was seated on his bunk and rolled off the bunk and ended up on the floor, and what he came into contact with between point A and point B, I'd have to sit and analyze the video," Hall said.

Lang's parents declined to comment on the BCI report.

"We're not litigious people. We're not that kind of people," said Mary Jo Lang, Lang's mother. "And we just want to be left alone to mourn our son. That's all we have in mind."

Lang's father, Erwin Lang, referred questions to the couple's attorney, Jason Butts, who declined to comment on the BCI report as he had yet to read it.

Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said the case is now closed. Hall said, as the report indicated no wrongdoing, the inquiry has concluded into Lang's death.

"Our staff responded and dealt with it according to their training and did a very good job dealing with the medical needs of this person in distress," Hall said. "We performed our duties."

He added that BCI's death review is the "first occurrence with services to an inmate population that required an outside entity's review" of the new jail.

The BCI report was released with redacted information, including Lang's responses to medical questions during jail intake and the nature of the medical event he had.

Meanwhile, those affected say they want to move on.

"I know for a fact Michael wouldn't want me to sit every day and cry," Ckierra Lang said. "I'm not happy, per se. I'm trying to be, but it's not going to be what it was."

She said she made the decision to remove life support from her husband. They had been friends since she was 13.

"I'm glad that the truth has finally come out," Kratz said. "I guess I had a feeling what I was thinking happened, happened."

Timeline of Mike Lang's death review

• Aug. 23, 2017: Mike Lang, 47, of Mandan, is charged with felony luring minors by computer.

• Aug. 24: Mandan Police arrest Lang. He is held at the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center.

• Sept. 5: Kristina Kratz visits Lang, her ex-husband, in jail. She said he had low blood sugar and appeared OK but was "a little shaky."

• Sept. 6: Lang has a heart attack or seizure in his bunk and falls onto the cell floor. Jail staff and Metro Area Ambulance respond, bringing him to Sanford Health in Bismarck. Maj. Steve Hall, of the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department, said Lang was breathing on his own when he left the jail. Morton County releases custody of Lang at the hospital.

• Sept. 13: After entering a coma and following days of testing, Lang dies after being taken off of life support. Family members noted his injuries at the time, including his broken nose, broken cheek bones, broken ribs and a cut on the back of his head.

• Sept. 14: North Dakota state forensic medical examiner Dr. William Massello III conducts his autopsy on Lang.

• Sept. 20: The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation begins its review into Lang's death at Hall's request.

• Nov. 21: Lang's family holds a memorial service.

• Dec. 11: Massello releases Lang's cause of death: Arteriosclerotic and dysgenetic coronary artery disease.

• Feb. 2, 2018: BCI releases its death review. Hall said the investigation clears the jail of any wrongdoing in its response to Lang.