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SLO County Jail deputies receive death threats as Holland family calls for calm

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson addresses the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 22, 2017, saying the county has implemented changes at the jail and that the chair Andrew Holland was restrained in has been destroyed.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson addresses the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 22, 2017, saying the county has implemented changes at the jail and that the chair Andrew Holland was restrained in has been destroyed. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Correctional deputies at the San Luis Obispo County Jail have been receiving death threats since Friday's release of graphic video showing the death of inmate Andrew Holland, and Holland's family is calling for those threats to stop.

The video sparked international outrage at the treatment of Holland, who was bound for 46 hours straight in a restraint chair, with many comments on social media singling out a deputy captured laughing while a Cal Fire medic crew performed CPR on Holland.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Cipolla wrote in an email Wednesday that the Sheriff's Office has received "numerous death threats directed at specific individuals and custody staff in general since Friday."

Cipolla said roughly a dozen threats had been phoned in to Sheriff's Office administration and jail. He said that making such threats is a crime and the department is actively investigating them.

“We absolutely have some responsibility in the loss of Andrew Holland. Never question that we have responsibility,” Sheriff Ian Parkinson told SLO County supervisors on Aug. 22, 2017. Here's a portion of his remarks to supervisors.

In a news release Tuesday night, Cipolla wrote that in light of those threats, "the Sheriff's Office is on a heightened sense of security." On Wednesday, he clarified that to mean the Sheriff's Office has tightened security around its administration building and County Jail.

That "heightened sense of security" led the Sheriff's Office to call out the Bomb Task Force after a suspicious package was found near the front door of the jail on Tuesday night.

The response forced the evacuation of evening visitors and Kansas Avenue in front of the building was temporarily closed while the bomb squad was called in to examine it, according to the news release. The lobby and the parking lot of the jail were also closed, officials said.

Cipolla said Wednesday that the task force determined the package was not a bomb.

Since Friday, the vast majority of the hundreds of comments posted on The Tribune and other news outlets' social media accounts expressed outrage at both the Sheriff's Office for its role in Holland's death and the District Attorney's Office for DA Dan Dow's decision not to launch a local investigation.

The Tribune moderates its social media comments to filter out and remove threatening or overly offensive posts. Though many of the comments were inflammatory, Tribune moderators have not had to remove any threatening posts nor have they seen any that specifically call for violence against an individual.

Regardless, news of threats to law enforcement saddened Carty and Sharon Holland, Andrew's parents, who are leading a crusade to reform the jail and bring new leadership to the Sheriff's and District Attorney's Office.

"I hope (the Sheriff's Office) know that we're so sorry that that happened," Carty Holland, Andrew's father, said Wednesday. "Those kind of threats are abhorrent to us and counterproductive to what we're trying to do here, which is to improve human treatment.

"This flies in the face of that," he said.

Both called for all threatening calls and harassment to stop.

"If they want to make a statement," Sharon said, "We're asking them to be active in a more productive manner."

Andrew Holland died while in custody at San Luis Obispo County Jail in 2017, after being restrained for 46 hours. This is a look at the events that led to his death, the county's response and the inmates who have died in custody since Holland.

Matt Fountain 781-7909, @mattfountain1
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