Officials are investigating possible drug overdoses that occurred in a Washington, D.C., jail over the weekend, leaving two dead and another hospitalized.

The two inmates likely died from drug use, initial observations indicated, but authorities noted they are waiting on autopsy reports. Neither case showed signs of trauma or suicide, but details surrounding the deaths have not yet been made public, officials said.


Ramone O’Neal, 28, died Friday after being found unresponsive in his cell around 2:15 a.m. He was pronounced dead an hour later, according to officials.

Two days later, Sean Lee, 37, was also found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead at 5:02 p.m. on Sunday. At the same time, Lee’s cellmate Marcel Jackson, 40, was observed to be in medical distress from a suspected overdose. Officials administered naloxone, an emergency overdose treatment, and performed CPR before transporting him to a local hospital.

The removal of drugs from the city jail is a top priority for local government, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday.

“I don’t know that any jail is contraband-proof, but we certainly have our focus on keeping all illegal items out of the jail,” she told reporters on Monday. “When our investigation is complete, we’ll know more.”

Councilman Trayon White, who is challenging Bowser in the mayoral primary next month, made a visit to the jail on Sunday after receiving reports of the deaths, noting several inmates had approached him with concerns of “mistreatment and inhumane conditions.”

Drug use inside the Washington jail has long been a problem, with Department of Corrections officials conceding it has been a struggle to keep drugs out of the facility. A correctional officer was charged in February with smuggling narcotics and weapons into the facility, prompting the agency to testify during an oversight hearing in March that it would focus on creating a “safe, secure, and humane” environment.

The correctional officer, Johnson Ayuk, was charged with bribery and providing contraband in prison and is being investigated by the DOC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the FBI. He is set to reappear in court on May 27.


The U.S. Marshals Service also aired concerns about “pervasive” drug use within the facility after a surprise inspection in October 2021 found widespread “systemic failures” and deplorable living conditions.

Overdose deaths have been on the rise for two decades, with an estimated 107,622 people dying of drug overdoses in 2021, a 15% increase from the year before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of these deaths were caused by synthetic opioids cut with fentanyl, a highly addictive drug that can be fatal when taken in high doses or with other drugs.