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60-year-old SLO County Jail inmate died of a heart attack, family says

Sheriff Ian Parkinson holds a press conference on Thursday, April 13, 2017, to talk about an inmate death at the County Jail. The family on Monday identified the man as Kevin Lee McLaughlin.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson holds a press conference on Thursday, April 13, 2017, to talk about an inmate death at the County Jail. The family on Monday identified the man as Kevin Lee McLaughlin. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A preliminary autopsy report of an inmate who died at San Luis Obispo County Jail on Thursday says the San Luis Obispo resident died of a heart attack, his family said Monday.

Kevin Lee McLaughlin, 60, died at 3:52 a.m. Thursday after complaining of shoulder pain to a correctional deputy nearly two hours before.

After being cleared by a nurse, the inmate was sent back to his bed in a low-security dorm, where he was found unresponsive with labored breathing about an hour later, SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference last Thursday. He has declined to name the inmate but The Tribune learned his identity from other sources.

Jail personnel performed CPR and used a defibrillator, Parkinson said, but were unable to revive him.

Shoulder pain is listed by the American Heart Association as a common warning sign of an impending heart attack.

The Sheriff’s Office investigation into McLaughlin’s death is ongoing. Following criticism of his department’s treatment of an inmate who died in January, Parkinson said Thursday he’s asked the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI’s Los Angeles criminal division to conduct independent investigations into the death — or any past inmate deaths at the jail — should they see fit.

Reached by phone Monday, McLaughlin’s mother told The Tribune that a preliminary autopsy report finding provided by the Sheriff’s Office ruled the cause of death a heart attack. His mother said the Sheriff’s Office “has been great” in keeping her informed of the investigation.

On Monday, McLaughlin’s defense attorney, Matthew Guerrero, called his death “terribly sad,” adding that McLaughlin was his mother’s full-time caretaker.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court records show McLaughlin was arrested Jan. 23 and pleaded no contest April 6 to a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon. He was scheduled to be sentenced May 11 to 180 days in jail and probation.

Guerrero said his former client had learned of his brother’s death earlier on the day of his arrest and McLaughlin “lost control” in an incident involving a chair. Tribune archives show his brother died Jan. 23.

McLaughlin did not have a serious criminal history prior to his arrest, court records show.

On Monday, Parkinson referred questions about McLaughlin’s complaints to staff and whether the nurse assessed his risk of heart attack to the county Public Health Department, which runs medical staff at the jail. Health officials did not return a request for comment late Monday.

McLaughlin is the 11th inmate to die while in County Jail custody in a little more than five years. His death comes less than three months after Andrew Chaylon Holland, 36, died at the jail after being released from a plastic restraint chair he had been strapped into for nearly two consecutive days. Holland, from Atascadero, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The Sheriff’s Office completed its investigation into Holland’s death last week, and the county Coroner’s Office said Holland died from a intrapulmonary embolism, or blood clot in the lung. An intrapulmonary embolism typically starts as a blood clot in the leg and travels to the lungs and may be caused by prolonged inactivity, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The coroner ruled the death was natural, a finding disputed by Holland’s family.

Parkinson said Thursday there is “no distinct pattern” in the deaths and that each inmate arrived at the County Jail with pre-existing medical issues, or drug intoxication or addiction. One of the 11 inmates committed suicide, he said.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office was scheduled to conduct the autopsy on McLaughlin last week at Parkinson’s request, he said Thursday, and toxicology results are expected to take four to six weeks.

Last Monday, the state Medical Board filed disciplinary action against San Luis Obispo County’s sole Coroner’s Office-contracted medical examiner after he was arrested on suspicion of DUI while en route to perform a San Luis Obispo autopsy. That examiner made the contested ruling on Holland’s death, and performed autopsies on several of the inmates to die at the jail in recent years.

IN-CUSTODY DEATHS, 2012-17

The following people died while in custody of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office since January 2012.

  • Jan. 5, 2012: Kevin Lee Strahl, 53. Cause: Hepatic failure, liver fatty change
  • Nov. 12, 2012: Joseph Morillo, 43. Cause: Cardiac arrest due to thickening of heart muscle and morbid obesity
  • Jan. 27, 2014: Rudy Silva. Died in hospital care. Cause: Acute hypoxic respiratory failure, septic shock, Influenza A and Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteremia
  • March 12, 2014: Josey Richard Meche, 28. Cause: Cardiac dysrhythmia with acute methamphetamine toxicity
  • May 30, 2014: Timothy Richard Jancowicz, 29. Cause: Respiratory arrest due to heroin toxicity
  • Jan. 11, 2015: David Thomas Osborn Sr., 63, Cause: Acute myocardial infection, Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, hyperglycemia
  • March 24, 2015: Sean Michael Alexander, 33. Cause: Microscopic encephalitis, marked pulmonary edema
  • Sept. 20, 2016: Jordan Benjamin Turner, 36. Cause: Suicide with razor blade
  • July 16, 2016: Nicole Honait Luxor, 62. Died in hospital care. Cause: Complications from gallbladder cancer
  • Jan. 22, 2017: Andrew Chaylon Holland, 36. Intrapulmonary embolism
  • April 13, 2017: Kevin Lee McLaughlin, 60. Heart attack (preliminary)

Note: Unless otherwise stated, place of death was San Luis Obispo County Jail.

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