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. willieslo says:

    Really
    Meche for throwing an object at a car.
    If he had thrown something at me while I was driving, that is an ass kicking offense by me.
    Good the officer saw it, and he was resisting?! What do you expect!
    Then he filed a law suit, despite what he himself caused!
    Who is this cheap attorney?
    What till some idiot do this to you!
    Found incompetent by the courts, go his hungry/greedy attorney who argue him to competent.
    Later panhandles and cross into traffic on a red light, that is a definitely a legit enforcement!
    What till someone does that to you when your driving!
    I am not a cop lover by any means.
    CHP and PD are sometimes over enforcing traffic laws with unconstitutional fine amounts
    In this case I believe they were on the ball and doing their job.
    Who is the worst in this case, the high price radar citations given by LE or the greedy/ hungry attorney bailing out his client hoping to win a settlement?
    It is not beyond the likes of Meche to probably cause some of his own injury and cry bully.
    They all hit the tax payers in the end!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 11

    • obispan says:

      Good point. Glad the police were there to deal with it. If it gets to the point where Willie and I have to deal with it ourselves things could get ugly.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • roberttorrance says:

      hope willie never loses his job and ends up homeless

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 13

      • obispan says:

        Bullshit. You think someone just took their jobs away and threw them out on the streets or in the creeks? The “but for the grace of God” argument was always thin and getting thinner. Were that the case I’d gratefully accept aid and pick up trash or whatever I could do to be useful. And not sue anybody.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

      • willieslo says:

        Your gravely missing the point,
        WE ARE NOT TRYING TO DEFEND THE COPS!!!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  2. obispan says:

    This is what the civil rights-enabled mentally ill do. Pester and annoy the police and the public they serve with constant minor acts of criminal disobedience. They get walk across streets in front of cars and make them stop, trespass, panhandle, defecate, et al, with complete impunity as the state lacks the resources to lock them up and they’re unrestrained by the consequences of you or I behaving that way. Not to mention their passionate network of activist supporters. We need to construct more low-cost, low security Patton/Agnew State Hospital-type facilities and lower the bar for commitment. We are already paying more than we need to. Add to this the providing health care through government-reimbursed emergency rooms, where they abuse the staff in the same manner they abuse police officers, at literally 10x the cost of having some sort of cogent plan. If you have a government check and enjoy being itinerant, or whatever, fine. You do not have the right to what you feel is societal, civil disobedience but is in fact criminal behavior you feel entitled to enjoy junior-Clockwork Orange-style. Stop and listen to them, ride the bus. They spend all of their “working” time “working” the system. My only problem with the SLO Police is that they demand so much goddamn money. 40% more than LAPD! Well, time to get to work as front-line social workers like your city colleagues. More than just noise complaints and stolen bicycles these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 8

  3. roberttorrance says:

    MURDER. SLO PD murdered him. The SLO PD now has a history of corruption (cory pierce) and now murder, this young man, who albeit has homeless and probably some mental issues. No justification for murder. Out with the chief and these officers involved. One of the officers I am sure put a nice boot or baton into his abdomen and the young man hemhorraged to death. MURDER – SLO PD SERVING AND PROTECTING.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 32

  4. Cindy says:

    It seems to me that when someone files a 1.5 million excess force claim against a local PD/SD that the LEO would use extreme caution to make certain that they don’t exacerbate the situation like arrest him for “nothing” and especially not to kick his butt, the LEO are more than capable of taking an unarmed individual into custody without beating the guy up or tazing him. This guy ended up DEAD, pretty much DOA give or take an hour. Somebody out there is out of control and I would not leave this to the sheriffs coroner. We need answers and we need answers that we feel we can rely on. Bring in an outside agency. Lets get to the bottom of this. Who knows, maybe the guy had a weak heart, maybe not but regardless, the local coroner isn’t they man to tell us that, not under these circumstances.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 28 Thumb down 11

    • obispan says:

      Fighting cops while on meth when you may already be in poor physical condition could be risky. Not saying that’s the case, but it often has been.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 7

      • kettle says:

        Or perhaps a wisecrack to the wrong cop when you may already be in poor physical condition.
        Almost all of the SLO police are fine and reasonable (doing a job that must suck some days), but every basket has a few bad ones.

        Was the recording gear turned on?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

      • Answer4U says:

        This guy was clinically insane and had a lengthy history of abusing meth and bath salts. In recent history, virtually every encounter he had with law enforcement resulted in him resisting and fighting. My guess is that the most recent incident with officers in combination with his addiction, mental state and extreme obesity led to his death. I place the blame on Excited Delirium and not the officers.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excited_delirium

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

        • Cindy says:

          Somehow, obesity and meth addiction don’t quite add up?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

        • jms3211 says:

          Blame doesn’t work! Finding who is responsible for a human being dying works! These are some of the highest paid LE in the country and I believe have been trained to handle these situations. Do you not believe that officers with their emotions under control, could have detained this human being without the result of him dying? Tough call……as I am sure this detainee was asking for it! Large lessons for all involved including the reading public!!!!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

          • Answer4U says:

            Did you not read the link on excited delirium? This guy was insane, obese and more than likely under the influence of a CNS stimulant. Those factors present while resisting arrest can lead to excited delirium. Death usually follows within 12 hours of one of these events – unless there’s medical intervention. Perhaps SLO County can develop a matrix by-which those meeting similar criteria shall be admitted into a hospital for a 12-24 hour observation period – if they can pay for it themselves!

            Sorry, but people like this are society’s garbage. They abuse drugs, steal from others and degrade our community. My thought is that we’re all better off without this guy.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

            • kettle says:

              Answer4U says: “society’s garbage”

              Judgemental and a doctor too. Perhaps we could make a place for society’s garbage, some sort of destination, a resort if you will.

              You are not the first person to think of this, look at how well that turned out the last time.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  5. RU4Real says:

    If this were MY loved one, I would go for an “outside” independent autopsy…Remember, the Coroners Office here is part of the SLO Sheriff Dept.!!! I do NOT trust SLO County!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 9

    • roberttorrance says:

      and the sheriff is friends with the chief in SLO, and probably the five police officers involved in this heroic act of serving and protecting! how the hell did a man 28 years old drop dead within hours of a police encounter?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

  6. No_More_Anger says:

    there are two kinds of posters here, one is the cops are always wrong, the other is the cops can do no wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 8

    • shelworth says:

      I used to be a “Cops always right”, person but now there are just too many videos on the internet to be all or nothing. I do think that most of the time if you just do what the police tell you to do, you probably won’t get a beat down. At least that is my plan just in case.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

      • obispan says:

        I do not personally rule out the idea of walking against a red light under rare circumstances, one of which being that there are no cars around. Especially no POLICE cars around.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Citizen says:

    Looks like a possible national story–violating the rights of the homeless and/or the mentally ill? Just how many people are arrested for stepping onto a crosswalk when the light is red?

    How could the court declare him mentally incompetent when he had just filed a claim against the city in preparation for a lawsuit? Most sane people don’t know how to do that.

    I guess we wait for the autopsy and cause of death.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 11

  8. shelworth says:

    I don’t know what to think about this one. I’m late middle age and the only time I’ve been in contact with police (besides a traffic ticket) was when my truck got broken into during the LA riots and the fireworks on the beach incident when I was 18. But this guy? Throwing things at cars? When you are 28? Sneaking through yards? If you had a big lawsuit pending shouldn’t you keep your nose clean? Not saying the police didn’t rough him up, but come on, it’s too easy to live within the rules.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 6

    • IronHub says:

      Yes. Death to those who stray beyond shelworth’s rules.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 23

      • shelworth says:

        Uh, I think they are “Society’s” rules, you know the ones passed by legislators “we” elected? You may not agree with them but for things to run smoothly you need to abide by them. There are processes for over turning the ones you don’t agree with. Or I suppose nowadays you can become president and tell your Attorney General not to enforce the ones you don’t like. Either way they are not “my” rules Irontub.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

      • obispan says:

        I’m fine with that. shelworth seems like a reasonable individual.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • roberttorrance says:

      u truly r an ignorant person. its ignorant people like you that enable this police state we now live in where a cop can kill anybody under the defense that they felt threatened for their life.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 18

      • shelworth says:

        So your plan is when a policeman comes up to you is to start screaming about your rights, and get all up in his face about it? Good luck with that.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  9. SLOBIRD says:

    Obviously, this young man has some serious mental issues. My condolences to the family and may he rest in peace.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 18

    • Scarlet says:

      Please tell me I am misunderstanding the point of your comment, SLOBIRD. He was deemed mentally competent by a professional. Even if he weren’t, does that condone excessive force and possibly murder?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 17

      • SLOBIRD says:

        Scarlet, I don’t believe I said anything relating to the condoning of excessive force and certainly not murder, nor would I. But why would you assume he was murdered, I did not see that in the story? Please, I was being sympathetic to a very sad story of another wasted life. No more than that! Jeez…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

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