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Cheektowaga man, 45, found hanged in his cell Dies within hour of being jailed

A 45-year-old Cheektowaga man was found dead in his jail cell at Cheektowaga Police Headquarters from an apparent suicide less than an hour after he was arrested early Friday morning.

Thomas G. Zak of Walden Avenue was found hanging at 2:32 a.m. Emergency crews tried to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Hospital.

Zak was arrested at 1:50 a.m. on Walden Avenue, near the city line, and charged with assault and criminal contempt, after being accused of violating an order of protection and hitting his girlfriend with a table leg, police said.

Capt. John Glascott provided a time line of the events following Zak's arrest.

Police brought him into headquarters at 1:59 a.m., when he was booked and photographed. He was placed quickly in a cell, at 2:07 a.m., partly because his girlfriend also was being brought in and police didn't want them to be together in the holding area. Police didn't release her name.

An officer making routine checks found Zak at 2:32 a.m. The man used his pants to hang himself, according to police reports.

"Usually, we try to check [prisoners] every half hour, as close to the half hour as we can," Glascott said. "He had been checked well within that half-hour time frame."

Zak had asked police officers about his upcoming court appearance, and officers had no indication at all that he had any thoughts of suicide, Glascott said. Police also said Zak appeared either intoxicated or high on drugs at the time of his arrest.

"I'm very comfortable with the way we handled the situation, but sometimes tragedies occur," Glascott said.

Cheektowaga police and the Erie County medical examiner's office are investigating the death.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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