SLO County Jail death is fifth in 15 months

San Luis Obispo County Jail
San Luis Obispo County Jail jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A 33-year-old man died while in custody at the San Luis Obispo County Jail early Tuesday, the fifth inmate to die in custody there in a little over a year.

The man was found unconscious in his single cell about 3 a.m. by correctional deputies, who began life-saving measures, the county Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday afternoon.

He was taken to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

The agency did not release the inmate’s name Tuesday pending notification of his family.

Sheriff’s Office spokes-man Tony Cipolla said Tuesday afternoon that the inmate, who was booked into custody March 18 for a probation violation for being under the influence of a controlled substance, had been observed by deputies during the night in a voluntary kneeling position at the side of his bed, with his knees on the ground and upper body leaning over the bed as though he were praying.

A Sheriff’s Office news release said the inmate’s movement and behavior were considered normal.

“He wasn’t showing any signs of distress,” Cipolla said.

The deputies — who were regularly checking on the inmate every 30 minutes, Cipolla said — then noticed the man’s head slumped over the bed with his knees still on the cell floor.

When they entered the cell, they found the man unresponsive and began CPR before transporting him to the hospital.

Cipolla said foul play is not suspected in the death.

An autopsy will be performed, and toxicology results are expected to be released in six to eight weeks.

The death marks the fifth inmate to die while in custody at County Jail in 15 months.

In January 2014, 35-year-old inmate Rudy Joseph Silva, 35, died four days after being hospitalized for the H1N1 flu virus.

In March 2014, Josey Richard Meche, 28, died at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center after he was found unresponsive in a holding cell a little more than two hours after being booked on suspicion of resisting arrest. A coroner’s report later attributed his death to a combination of methamphetamine toxicity and hyperthermia.

In May, Timothy Richard Janowicz, 29, was found unresponsive in his bunk bed by other inmates in his cell. A coroner’s report later said Janowicz died of a heroin overdose combined with coronary artery disease.

On Jan. 11, 2015, David Osborn Sr., 63, of Morro Bay was pronounced dead at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center after twice being arrested the day prior on suspicion of being drunk in public and requiring two evaluations by officers and jail medical staff. He collapsed while sitting on a bench outside of the medical office, according to police, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Cipolla said the inmate who died Tuesday was being held in a cell that was under video surveillance and that the Sheriff’s Office is reviewing the footage.