ME: Suspect in shooting of Vancouver police officer hangs himself

ME: Suspect in shooting of Vancouver police officer hangs himself »Play Video
FILE -- James Todd Sapp, wearing an anti-suicide smock, appears in court Tuesday, July 1, 2014 accused of shooting and wounding a Vancouver police officer during a traffic stop.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The man who was in jail and suspected of shooting and wounding a Vancouver police officer late last month committed suicide by hanging, the Clark County Medical Examiner's Office said Monday.

The official cause of death for James Todd Sapp, 48, was asphyxia.

Sapp died after sheriff deputies making a routine cell check last Thursday, July 17, found him trying to kill himself, the sheriff's office said. He was taken to the hospital but died the next day at 12:45 p.m.

Sapp was on suicide watch and jail staff is now looking into how he was able to commit suicide while in jail. Police have not released details into how Sapp was able to kill himself.

Sapp was accused of shooting motorcycle officer Dustin Goudschaal seven times during a traffic stop near Northeast 162nd Avenue and 34th Street on June 30. The officer survived.

After the shooting police said Sapp fled the scene in the truck and then carjacked and elderly man.

Police found and arrested Sapp about 2 1/2 hours after the shooting.

Sapp's family released the following statement: "The family of Mr. Sapp wishes to express their concern and sorrow for the suffering and injuries inflicted on Vancouver Police Officer Dustin Goudschaal and the members of the Vancouver Police Department. The family asks for privacy as they work through this difficult time."

Sapp had an extensive criminal history and authorities said he was a white supremacist.

The Clark County Major Crimes Team will take over the investigation into Sapp's death.

The jail put new procedures in place a couple years ago to stop inmates from killing themselves.

"In 2011 and 2012 we had a number of inmate suicides," said Chief Jail Deputy Ric Bishop. "We did some internal reviews and made a number of changes to our operation for the safety of the jail."

He said some of those changes included recessing all the sprinkler heads and improving training for staff to recognize when prisoners were thinking about killing themselves.

The staff checks on inmates who are on suicide watch every 15 minutes.

KATU's Bob Heye contributed.