Questions surround inmate’s death
April 25, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
The mother of a man who died after being incarcerated in the San Luis Obispo County Jail is questioning why her son was placed in a cell rather than taken to a hospital after officers determined he was 5150, a danger to himself or others, or possibly under the influence.
Last month, Josey Meche, 28, was found unresponsive on a cell floor and died shortly afterwards from a heart attack. At the time of his death, he had a 105.1 temperature, a staph infection and a toxic level of methamphetamine in his system, according to the autopsy report.
At about 10 p.m. on March 11, San Luis Obispo police received a report of a suspicious person standing in a yard on Mountain View Street holding a stick. Officers arrived to find Meche disheveled, without shoes and bleeding from gashes on the top of his feet.
The officers asked Meche to drop the stick and sit down, which he did, according to a sheriff’s report based on police videos. Meche then “passively resisted by not allowing officers to handcuff him,” the report says.
Officers then arrested Meche for obstructing justice by resisting arrest.
When he was asked by officers why he was at the residence, Meche said “he drank some acid, his blood was thickening and he needed some water,” the police report says.
Under the leadership of San Luis Obispo Police Chief Stephen Gesell, the number of people arrested for the crime of resisting arrest has increased 104 percent. In the two years prior to Gesell’s hiring, 2010 and 2011, there were 95 arrests in San Luis Obispo for resisting arrest. During Gesell’s first two years that number increased to 194, for 2012 and 2013, according to police records procured through a public records request.
After taking Meche into custody, the officers transported him to the police station where he pulled hair from his face, was disjointed in his actions and spoke of aliens, according to the sheriff’s report.
Generally, people deemed 5150, a danger to themselves or others, are transported to a hospital for a medical clearance before being checked into a mental health facility. However, in this case Meche was arrested and jailed.
Shortly after 11 p.m., deputies placed Meche in cell five in the fishbowl, an area with glass fronted cells for observation of new arrestees. Shortly after entering his cell, Meche flailed on the ground for less than a minute and then stood up and began pacing, according to the sheriff’s report based on jail surveillance videos.
At 11:54 p.m., the video shows that Meche is on the floor again with his hands and legs moving. During several cell checks, deputies see Meche flailing on the ground, the report says.
At 12:15 a.m., after more than 20 minutes of flailing on the ground, Meche rolls onto his stomach and stops moving. At 12:26 a.m., a deputy attempts to rouse Meche who is lying unresponsive on the concrete floor streaked with blood from the wounds on his feet.
Shortly afterwards, deputies began performing CPR. Meche was pronounced dead at 1:49 a.m. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Coroner’s Office ruled the death accidental.
Meche is the second inmate to die shortly after being discovered incapacitated in a San Luis Obispo County Jail cell. On Jan. 23, Rudy Joseph Silva was transported to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center where he died of influenza and a staphylococcus infection four days later.