Man charged for opioid death of fellow inmate at Whatcom County Jail


An inmate at the Whatcom County Jail has been charged for the overdose death of a fellow inmate on March 13, and is awaiting trial for multiple charges including controlled substance homicide. 

On the morning of March 13, Whatcom County Sheriffs Office (WCSO) corrections officers and medical staff responded to two cellmates exhibiting signs of an opioid overdose, according to a WCSO press release.

Lifesaving measures were given to both inmates, but were unsuccessful for Andre Haas, 28, who was declared dead at the jail, according to the Bellingham Police Department. The other cellmate, still unnamed, was transported to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center for treatment.

Angel Leffingwell, 38, was charged for the death of Haas on March 15 following a joint investigation by the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Response Team (LEMART) and Bellingham police.

“Leffingwell was the only inmate in the common area of housing while all other inmates were in their respective cells,” a BPD statement read. “When corrections officers arrived, Mr. Haas and his cellmate were located unconscious and non-responsive. Aid was rendered to Mr. Haas and his cellmate while Mr. Leffingwell was secured.”

Leffingwell was booked into jail on February 25 on suspicion of vehicular assault and evading police after a leading a high-speed chase through Chuckanut Drive and into downtown Bellingham, according to court documents.

It remains unclear how Leffingwell was able to smuggle opioids into the jail. Inmates can be subject to strip searches or scanned using a full-body scanner to detect for drugs or foreign objects, according to WCSO public information officer Deb Slater.

“Inmates have wrapped and swallowed or inserted suspected opioids into their body cavity to get them into the facility,” Slater wrote.

On February 27, while already in custody, Leffingwell was charged with possession of a controlled substance by a prisoner. According to court documents, Leffingwell was found with multiple bags of fentanyl pills during the arrest.

Sheriff Donnell Tanksley  said the office is evaluating its procedures for ensuring inmates can’t bring drugs into the jail.

There were 13 overdoses in Whatcom County Jail in 2023, and so far there have been five overdoses at the facility in 2024, Slater said. The jail offers medication for inmates experiencing opioid use disorder, and as of March 10, 75 inmates were taking those medications.

“No one should die while in our custody,” Tanksley wrote in a statement. “Our staff and our jail processes are geared to protect incarcerated individuals. For the sake of all involved, we are working through the protocols in place and commit to support the investigation – and, more importantly, to ensure no illicit drugs remain in our facilities.”

An independent investigation of the incident is still being conducted by LEMART. Results of the investigation will be made public in the future, according to WCSO.

“It was important yesterday, well before yesterday, and especially today that we acknowledge and take seriously the community’s opioid epidemic,” Tanksley wrote. “We need everyone, all of us, to take action and prevent future tragedies.” 


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