Crime

SLO County inmate dies after suspected overdose, another collapses

Inmate death rate at SLO County Jail ranks 6th highest in California

San Luis Obispo County Jail had the sixth-highest inmate death rate of all California counties over the last five years, according to newly released data reviewed by The Tribune and The Sacramento Bee.
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San Luis Obispo County Jail had the sixth-highest inmate death rate of all California counties over the last five years, according to newly released data reviewed by The Tribune and The Sacramento Bee.

An inmate of the San Luis Obispo County Jail died Friday of a likely drug overdose, according to authorities.

The inmate was discovered unresponsive in his bunk in a dorm housing unit Friday afternoon and later was pronounced dead, the county Sheriff’s Office said in a news release late Friday night.

At approximately 1:05 p.m., jail staff were notified that 56-year-old Ernest Leonard Ortiz of Grover Beach was unresponsive and began CPR, the release stated. Jail staff also administered Narcan and called for medical staff and outside medical assistance, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Ortiz remained unresponsive and was pronounced dead, according to the release. The death is being investigated as a possible drug overdose by the District Attorney’s Office.

The dorm housing unit that housed Ortiz has 51 inmates and open bunks. In the dorms, inmates have access to their bunks throughout the day.

Another inmate who had been seen with Ortiz earlier, collapsed a short time later, the Sheriff’s Office said. He received an injection of Narcan and survived.

Ortiz was due to be released in July 2020 and had been in custody since late March for violating probation, according to the release.

The death is the 14th at the SLO County Jail since 2012.

Michael Wayne Nonella, 47, of Arroyo Grande who reportedly hanged himself Sept. 1, 2018, was the last inmate to die in jail custody.

The FBI launched a civil rights investigation into the jail in May 2017, which remains ongoing.

Last week, 18 people, including inmates and deputies, were treated for suspected opioid overdoses at the Santa Barbara County Jail, according to the SLO County Sheriff’s Office.

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