Island County’s jail dehydration death in spotlight at Seattle’s Hempfest

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More than 15,000 water bottles emblazoned with the face of Keaton Farris will be distributed at next weekend’s Hempfest in Seattle.

Keaton Farris, who suffered from mental illness and was arrested on a check forgery charge, died in the Island County Jail April 7 of dehydration. Both internal and external investigations are ongoing. As a result of the tragedy, a groundswell of community support has manifested itself in the form of a June vigil march through Coupeville to the jail, where more than two hundred people participated, along with a jail-side memorial and ongoing picketers.

“Seattle Hempfest has donated their entire water bottle supply to be labeled with information about Keaton’s death,” said Keaton Farris’ father, Fred Farris. “They have also donated a booth space for us to share information about his mistreatment at Island County Jail and to sell shirts to help continue spreading the news.”

Hempfest, now in its 24th year, will be Friday to Sunday, Aug. 14-16 Seattle’s Space Needle.

Fred Farris said there were more than 300,000 people in attendance at last year’s Hempfest and that “we are humbled and grateful for their generosity and support.”

Family, friends and community members of both Whidbey Island and Lopez Island will be there volunteering “their time and passion,” Fred Farris said, unpacking, labeling, repacking and helping to distribute over 15,000 water bottles.

Sharon Whitson, Hempfest general manager, said donating the bottles and space to raise awareness for Keaton Farris was an easy choice.

“It was an easy thing for me to do,” Whitson said. “If people can look for good for ways to help people in their communities. This is a good example. Hempfest was able to promote what’s happening in this community.”

Whitson also said providing a venue for the Farris family drives home both the importance of hydration as well as show how the state and country’s law enforcement policies can put people at odds.

“We’re very proud of our law enforcement, and we work hand in hand with them,” Whitson said. However, “the war on drugs has put law enforcement and law-abiding citizens at odds with each other.” The informational water bottles are a “kind, good way to bring awareness to what happened to this poor young man.”

Fred Farris said the water bottle distribution was the idea of Coupeville resident Corrie Schwantes. Farris said he wanted to thank both Schwantes and Whitson for their support.

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