The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office released a statement on its Facebook page Saturday afternoon regarding the in-custody death of Andrew Holland, saying the mental health system failed the former Atascadero resident.
The 491-word statement, issued by Sheriff Ian Parkinson, states that Holland had "a long history of violence and mental illness" and he "voluntarily stopped taking his medication." Medical and jail staff observed Holland repeatedly striking himself with his fists and had bloodied his face, the statement says.
Those actions led County Jail staff to place Holland in a restraint chair, where he would stay for nearly two straight days. About one hour after he was released from the plastic restraint chair, Holland was pronounced dead on the floor of his holding cell, The Tribune's review of more than 100 hours of jail surveillance footage confirmed.
According to Saturday's statement, the Sheriff's Office contacted county Mental Health multiple times to request that Holland be transferred to the mental health facility for treatment.
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"The Mental Health Department refused to accept him, claiming that they were at 'capacity,'" the statement said. "It was later determined that their claim was untrue and Mental Health could have taken custody of Mr. Holland for treatment. Two doctors, one from Mental Health and one from Public Health, conferred about the Holland case on that Friday night and refused to have him transferred to the Mental Health facility for treatment. They also failed to adopt a plan to involuntarily sedate the inmate."
The statement says the Sheriff's Office "had no alternative" other than to place Holland in restraints. Use of restraints is strictly regulated by a six-page set of rules, the statement says, and the Sheriff's Office followed those rules "at all times during this incident."
"In accordance with the rules, the entire process was videotaped and careful logs were kept concerning every step in the process," the statement said. "Any claims that the rules about use of restraints were not followed by the Sheriff’s Office, are completely false.
"While Mr. Holland was restrained, the Sheriff’s Office asked Mental Health for authorization to forcibly medicate the inmate so that he could be removed from the restraint chair," the statement continues. "The Sheriff’s Office does not have the legal authority to involuntarily sedate an inmate. The Mental Health Department refused to classify this situation as 'an emergency' which would have permitted involuntary sedation. This decision was a failure of the mental health system."
The $5 million settlement awarded to the Holland family in July "came from the medical malpractice insurance of County Mental Health; it was not based on any wrong-doing of the Sheriff's Office," the statement said.
"For several years before this incident the Sheriff’s Office had requested that the County provide authority to allow mental health staff at the County Jail to involuntarily medicate violent inmates," the statement said. "Following this incident, the Sheriff’s Office requested, and the County approved, the hiring of a Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to serve exclusively at the County Jail; which finally gives the Sheriff’s Office CMO authority to sedate violent inmates.
"The Sheriff’s Office and the County have been and will remain focused on effecting positive change on mental health issues in our community."
In response to the release of video showing the events leading up to Andrew Holland's death, dozens of protesters, including San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, gathered Saturday in front of San Luis Obispo Superior Court to demand accountability from county officials. They also called for Parkinson's resignation.