Jailhouse death preceded by excess force claim

March 14, 2014

jailBy KAREN VELIE and JOSH FRIEDMAN

A 28-year-old man filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the San Luis Obispo Police Department claiming officers physically assaulted him. He died less than two weeks later just hours after another encounter with city police officers.

At 11:26 p.m. on Tuesday, police officers booked Josey Richard Meche into the San Luis Obispo County Jail for a charge of resisting arrest. After approximately an hour, jail staff discovered Meche unresponsive on the floor of his cell. He was transported to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center where he died a short time later, according to a press release.

Exactly a year earlier, on March 11, 2013, officers Jeff Middleton and Eric Vitale arrested Meche for throwing an object at a car and resisting arrest, according to court records. Meche said in his lawsuit that one of the officers dragged him around by a dog leash which lacerated his wrist and caused road burns on his face and upper body.

Because of his injuries, the officers transported Meche to a local hospital for medical care before booking him into jail, according to the suit.

On July 25, 2013, Meche filed a claim against the city, as required by law before filing a lawsuit. Shortly afterwards, the court approved a request to have Meche found mentally incompetent and to have him transferred to Atascadero State Hospital. However, Meche appealed the ruling and was subsequently deemed mentally competent, according to court records of the arrest.

Shortly after Meche was released from jail, on Dec. 27, San Luis Obispo police arrested him for stepping onto a crosswalk while the light was red. After his release from jail, police arrested Meche on Jan. 9 for panhandling.

Meche filed a lawsuit in federal court on Feb. 27 claiming the officers violated his civil rights under the color of authority. According to the suit, Meche suffered long lasting injuries because of the alleged excessive force.

“The individuals who violated my rights were participating in an official sanctioned arrest,” Meche says in his suit.

At about 10 p.m. on Tuesday, police received a report of a suspicious person walking through a yard and five officers responded, according to the police log. An hour and a half later, the officers booked Meche into the San Luis Obispo County Jail for resisting arrest. A few hours later, he was pronounced dead.

The San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office is investigating Meche’s death and will perform an autopsy to determine the cause.

 


39 Comments

  1. deebo says:

    Here’s an idea, when the cops say stop, don’t move…stop and don’t move! That’s not an easy job, a little cooperation and common sense go along way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 18

  2. Gordo says:

    I am sorry this young man died. An autopsy will be or may have already been conducted by a pathologist, which will show why he died. If it was due to internal injuries sustained while fighting with the police I am sure the circumstances will be examined in light of the Federal lawsuit.
    My guess is that this man is a drug addict and years of abuse savaged his body. He probably had methamphetamine in his system during his fight with the police. The combination of drugs, poor health and exertion could have simply caused cardiac arrest once the adrenaline stopped when the fight was over.
    This young man is an example of the kind of troublemakers who have infested our streets. We didn’t have these problems 25-30 years ago; Santa Barbara did, but we didn’t. Then our attitude changed and we were told by our elected leaders we had to help them by expanding services for them. “If you build it they will come.” And so they did. Today you can not swing a dead cat in downtown SLO without hitting a bum.
    In days past, before we gutted our mental health systems and people in my profession argued before the courts that people had the right to refuse psych meds, this young man would have been institutionalized. While that might sound harsh, think about this: Had he been in an institution he would not have had altercations with the police, he would not have been using illegal drugs, he would have received regular medical care and we would still be alive. It would cost us taxpayers,but ask yourself what all the police enforcement, emergency medical aid, lawyers defending legal actions against the city/ county, and current homeless services (with employees earning six figure salaries) is costing us now.
    If the drug addicts, mentally ill and homeless by choice are removed from the equation we can focus our efforts on helping those who need help to get back on their feet and who are capable of making their way back to a normal, healthy, productive life when we do help them. Those are the people we should be helping; the displaced worker, the single mother and the veteran with PTSD.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 6

Leave a Comment