Man Dies at San Diego Jail After Being Pepper-Sprayed by Deputies

California – Sheriff’s homicide investigators and the county Medical Examiner’s Office are conducting separate investigations into the death Wednesday of a suspect at the Vista Detention Center.

The Sheriff’s Department acknowledged the death hours after The San Diego Union-Tribune learned of the case and requested details.

The incident is the latest in a string of jail deaths in San Diego County, which has paid millions of dollars in legal settlements and judgments over wrongful-death lawsuits in recent years.

Two separate investigations have been opened into the death this week of a man who died in custody after being pepper-sprayed by deputies from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

One of the investigations is being conducted by sheriff’s homicide investigators. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office is conducting a separate review of circumstances leading to the death of the man.

He was identified Saturday by the Medical Examiner’s Office as Oscar Leal, 37, of Vista.

The Sheriff’s Department acknowledged the death Friday afternoon, after The San Diego Union-Tribune learned about the incident and requested details.

According to the department, deputies received multiple 911 calls from a home in Vista on Wednesday around 8 a.m. and arrested a man at the home after he had difficulty performing the standard field-sobriety test.

On the way to jail, the suspect began slamming his head on the interior of the patrol car and kicking around the back seat. He was warned to stop before a deputy used pepper spray “in order to prevent the man from injuring himself,” the statement said.

“The man repeatedly yelled ‘NO!’, ‘sir’ and ‘let me go!’ and ‘Don’t take me to jail!’” said the statement, released by Lt. Karen Stubkjaer. “The man continued to thrash and injure himself in the back of the patrol car upon arrival at the detention facility.”

Once at the jail, the suspect again was uncooperative and another dose of pepper spray was administered, sheriff’s officials said.

“Deputies attempted to control him once outside of the vehicle and he kicked them,” the statement said. “They attempted to restrain him with their hands to place him on a medical gurney and he stopped breathing.”

The statement said life-saving measures were taken and deputies summoned paramedics. The suspect was transported to Tri-City Medical Center and declared dead at the hospital.

“At this time, we have reason to believe the subject’s death was possibly caused by an overdose of illegal drugs,” the statement said. “Therefore, in addition to an investigation originated by our Homicide Division, we are investigating this case with our new Overdose Response Protocol.”

A spokeswoman at the county Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday that it too was reviewing the death, but no details would be released until the investigation was completed.

In-custody deaths have been a longstanding problem within the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. Dozens of detainees and jail inmates have been killed or committed suicide in recent years, according to the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board.

The backlog of death investigations grew so large — 59 at one point — that late last year the review board voted to summarily dismiss 22 cases, including one dating to 2011. In January, the latest month for which data are available, the review board had 34 outstanding death cases.

San Diego County paid out more than $6 million in legal settlements and jury awards over the same period and is currently litigating at least four other wrongful-deaths lawsuits.

The Sheriff’s Department said on Friday that it did not announce the death previously because it would have compromised an investigation into where the man got drugs.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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