SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Several dozen protesters gathered on Friday outside the California jail where three correctional deputies were accused of beating to death a mentally ill inmate last week, according to news reports and images on social media.
Corrections deputies Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin and Rafael Rodriguez were arrested early on Thursday morning and face murder, assault and conspiracy charges in the killing of Michael James Tyree, 31. They were being held without bail on Friday.
About 50 protesters assembled in front of the Santa Clara County main jail holding signs that said “murder in uniform” and “stop guard abuse,” according to photographs posted online and the San Jose Mercury News.
The arrests followed a series of high-profile police killings and in-custody deaths across the country that have put law enforcement agencies under increased scrutiny over their use of force.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said Tyree was in a protective custody wing of the county’s main jail on the night of Aug. 26 after being arrested on misdemeanor drug possession and theft charges.
The three deputies were conducting a clothing search on the wing before entering Tyree’s single-person cell, where they stayed for 20 minutes, Smith told reporters on Thursday.
She said no one else had any contact with the victim before Lubrin returned to discover his naked body, covered in feces and vomit, about an hour later.
The county’s medical examiner-coroner determined that Tyree died of internal bleeding due to multiple blunt force injuries.
Paula Canny, an attorney for the victim’s family, said Tyree suffered from mental illness and was being housed in the jail because there was no space at a mental health facility.
Inmates at the jail told the San Jose Mercury News they heard Tyree screaming in pain and pleading with the guards to stop before he fell silent.
Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Trott