Questions surround inmate’s death

April 25, 2014


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.

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This is indeed a concern however I’m reminded of the fellow who was taken into county mental health after his father called the police and the son was declared a 5150. Like Josey Meche, the man was indicating schizophrenic symptoms and probable drug abuse. CCN ran the story of how the man was placed in restraints at CMH and died of a coronary due to meth amphetamine intoxication that was exacerbated by his fighting against his prolonged restraints. My point here is ‘damned if we do and damned if we don’t’. As a society, we offer very poor alternative care for the indigent. Could Josey Meche’s life have been saved, absolutely. Can we afford to take everyone who displays bizarre behavior to the ER and if we do, who pay’s for it? Exactly what are we supposed to do with all these drug abusers and mentally ill transients and how do we discern which of them are truly suffering from a life threatening condition?

We’re looking at the Sheriffs for not taking him into CMH but I have to wonder who we would be looking at if Meche had been taken into county mental health, would we be looking at CMH for the explanation as to why Meche died there? At the same time I’m reminded of the Destiny Meyers case where the coroner stated that she had meth toxicity but it wasn’t ‘necessarily’ life threatening. So exactly what is meth toxicity and at what point is it truly lethal short of being exacerbated ?

This is not something that should be swept away lightly. We supposedly pay for the best and the brightest and I think we deserve better explanations and solutions.

The man was taken into police custody and they had an absolute duty to care for him.

So, did the SLO County Sheriff / Coroner perform the autopsy? The SLO County Sheriff (staff) may have had a hand in this death? I would like to know, seems if this is the case, the autopsy should have been performed by a neutral party.

“Performed by a neutral party”. LOL. In a county riven with multiple pockets of inbred, corrupt, drug stealing, child stealing and citizen-beating officials? Where the top people vote money for, or sleep with subordinates, (Hill, Gibson) while county counsel blesses it all, and hides behind an invalid-from-inception “release of liability” (executed by Gibson/McKee) and hold harmless fraud document?

In a county where the local major newspaper is BEAT OUT and SCOOPED routinely by an internet start up?

In a county where the BOS was “taken by surprise” by huge pumping overdrafts in their GW basin, a county that elects nutjob tyrants like Irons and Tacker who DOOM their entire communities to tens of millions of needless WW costs?

You’d have to import a neutral forensic team from out of county. The survivors are entitled to do so. (Not that I’m taking the side of this unfortunate death. That person assumed the risk of sudden cardiac death if they subjected their body to illicit drugs.)

Addiction should never be treated as a crime. It has to be treated as a health problem. We do not send alcoholics to jail in this country. Over 500,000 people are in our jails who are nonviolent drug users..

Actually we do send alcoholics to jail. There are many alcoholics who are on probation for petty crimes like public intoxication who are placed on probation and ordered not to drink alcohol. I knew a young woman who was taken to jail at least 5 times for no reason other than having her PO catch her under the influence after stopping by her home for a surprise visit. Granted the woman had a serious alcohol problem and would get into trouble when she drank but she never committed any crimes other than being a public nuisance. After a few years and many arrests for drinking alcohol the courts gave up on her and released her from her probation, in other words, she was free to drink. That’s a true story. She died of an alcohol related seizure about 4 years later. But we do put alcoholics in jail.

There are some serious problems with the system. The comment stating that County Mental Health will not admit a 5150 without an ER exam has never made sense. Generally, the one who brought the person to the ER is told by the hospital that they must remain with that person. Waiting at the ER can take hours. So the person who brought the patient in, who may not be a mental health expert, has to sit at the ER waiting room, or hall ways, trying to convence a mentally unstable individual to remain in the hospital until it is their turn. I can’t understand why the person cannot be dropped off at County Mental Health, and an on call doctor can’t come to County Mental Health, or if need be, why one of the hospitals doesn’t have a lock up room for that patient, like most big cities. That way the sick person will remain at the hospital, no one needs to sit with them, and there ER is there to care for the patient in an emergency life saving situation. Although it is not the hospital’s responsibility to do so, perhaps the city or the county can contact with either hospital, probably French due to its location, so a mental unstable patient can remain in a lock up room until cleared to go to MH? “That way there will not be the possibility of the sick person walking out or worst yet, a death in the jail.

Interesting point. I didn’t realize that CMH requires that a 5150 must first be seen at the ER. What a convoluted mess and a serious cost to the taxpayers. So a LEO must sit there for hours dealing with this situation and then transport back and forth etc. I agree that CMH should have a doctor on staff who can make these determinations and start any necessary medical procedures if warranted.

We need to pass a law against using meth. Perhaps that would let people know that it is not safe to use. {Sarcasm}

Nah! I would propose the death penalty for manufacturing or selling it thou. {Not Sarcasm}

The police were also completely negligent in failing to investigate his reports of “aliens”.