The family of a mentally ill San Luis Obispo County Jail inmate who died in custody in 2017 say "extremely troubling" questions remain about their loved one's death and are calling on San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson to provide answers before Tuesday's primary election.
On Thursday morning, the family of Andrew Holland held a news conference to compel Parkinson to explain to the public several issues about Holland's treatment in custody that have been revealed through extensive media reporting in recent months.
Holland, 36, died Jan. 22, 2017, of an embolism from a blood clot shortly after jail staff let him out of the full-body restraint chair they had left him in for nearly two straight days. Video of Holland's time in the chair and various reports obtained by local reporters contradict Parkinson's and the county's version of events about Holland's death.
Parkinson has rejected calls he step out of the race for Sheriff — he's facing former police officer Greg Clayton, to whom the Holland family has donated $25,000 — and claims that his correctional staff followed all protocols.
The Sheriff's Office released the following statement in response to a request for comment from The Tribune: "We respectfully disagree with the Holland family's allegations and stand by our previous statements and responses to these same questions which we have already answered."
Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Cipolla declined further comment.
In a letter read by members of Holland's family at a news conference in Atascadero on Thursday, the family said that, nearly a year and a half since Holland died in the jail, they and the public are "lacking basic answers to extremely troubling questions about what actually happened to Andrew."
The letter cites specific issues, including:
- Parkinson has stated that Holland was not released from the restraint chair because he was combative and would not accept medication, and because staff couldn't involuntarily sedate him. However, as previously reported, medical records drafted by jail staff show that Holland accepted sedative medication and that jail medical staff noted him as "calm" and showing "minimal signs of aggression" as early as about three hours after he was placed in a full-body restraint chair. "If Andrew was not combative with staff and accepted sedative medications, why was he kept in the restraint chair for over 46 hours?" the letter reads.
- The family claims that several county policies were violated during Holland's time in restraints, contrary to Parkinson's statement that all policies were followed. Specifically, the family alleges that Holland was never afforded an opportunity to use a toilet — he was left to instead defecate on himself — that "range of motion exercises" given to Holland's limbs by jail staff did not meet the county's required duration and frequency, and that the 46 hours of restraint far exceeded what was "reasonably necessary," as the policy at the time read. The Hollands' letter asks: "Do you acknowledge that custody staff did not follow the relevant and applicable policies concerning restraint ...?"
- Parkinson has stated that no employee of his has been disciplined over Holland's death. The Holland family asks why the then-correctional sergeant who ordered Holland be put in the chair and the then-correctional lieutenant who approved the restraint have since been promoted to lieutenant and correctional captain, respectively. (The latter position is second in command only to the undersheriff.) "Is there an explanation which you can provide for why the staff responsible for these horrendous actions have not been disciplined and instead been rewarded for fatal errors of judgment at best or malicious intent at worst?" the Holland letter reads.
"Mr. Parkinson, you are claiming to be the person who can bring the Sheriff's Department and the SLO County Jail out of the darkness that surrounds them," the letter reads. "If that is true, you should be willing and able to give the voters and citizens of this county, as well as our family, honest answers to these questions."
The letter seeks "candid and definitive answers" from Parkinson before Tuesday.