Deputies found not to blame in Santa Barbara County inmate’s death

February 17, 2024

Santa Barbara County Jail


Even though an autopsy found physical restraints contributed to an inmate’s death at the northern branch of the Santa Barbara County Jail, the deputies actions were “reasonable and lawful,” according to a Feb. 13 report by the Office of the District Attorney.

On the morning of Dec. 28, 2022, 33-year-old Jaime Gonzalez died shortly after he called 911 seeking assistance. A medical examiner reported Gonzalez’s cause of death as methamphetamine intoxication along with cardiomyopathy, obesity and physical restraint.

A felon out on parole, Gonzalez called 911 shortly before 8 a.m. to report an argument he was having with other residents at a sober living facility in Orcutt. Gonzalez then asked officers to drive him to the local parole office where he had an appointment, before admitting he was using drugs.

Upon learning his charge was intoxicated, Gonzalez’s parole officer revoked his probation and asked deputies to take him to jail.

Gonzalez fled on foot, with deputies behind him for several blocks. After deputies made contact, Gonzalez tensed his body and refused to get into a patrol vehicle. He complained of chest and back pain.

After about 10 minutes, Gonzalez stepped into the patrol car. He told the deputies he did not feel safe. He feared someone would kill or rape him. He continued complaining of back and chest pain.

He repeatedly said, “I do not want to die,” according the the District Attorney’s Office.

At the jail, a nurse checked his vitals. Shortly afterwards, a social worker determined Gonzalez should be placed in a mental health observation cell.

Once Gonzalez was cleared for booking into the jail, deputies tried to walk him to a cell, but he refused to move screaming he did “not want to be raped.” Deputies attempted to put him in a wheelchair, but he fought back and they eventually gave up.

While deputies tried to moved him to an observation cell, Gonzalez kicked and spit.

“During the time that Gonzalez was on the ground, the custody deputies were talking to him, telling him to stop fighting, to try to relax and breathe,” according to the District Attorney’s Office report. “Custody Deputy Duran continued to try to de-escalate the situation by explaining to Gonzalez what they were doing and why. She would say things like, ‘Jaime, we’re going to roll you over. It will help your back. We’re going to help you sit up.’ The struggle with Gonzalez in the intake area lasted approximately four minutes in

After hobbling Gonzalez, officers took him to a safety cell where he quickly lost consciousness. Jail staff used Narcan to revive Gonzalez who then asked for water. But when officers tried to sit him so he could have a drink, he began kicking and flailing his arms before again losing consciousness.

After a second dose of Narcan, Gonzalez began breathing on his own and regained a pulse. Emergency personnel then transported him to Marian Regional Medical Center where he died approximately three hours after calling 911.

“Based on our review of the facts and circumstances surrounding Gonzalez’s death, the physical restraint employed by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office deputies was reasonable and lawful,” The District Attorney’s Office conclude. “The deputies bear no state criminal legal liability for their actions.”


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