San Diego to dismiss 22 in-custody, officer-involved death cases taking too long to investigate

A citizens review panel says it will dismiss 22 cases of officer-involved deaths that have taken too long to investigate. Photo by Tomás Del Coro/Flickr

Nov. 15 (UPI) — A citizens review board in San Diego said Tuesday it plans to dismiss 22 investigations of civilian deaths involving law enforcement because they are taking too long to investigate.

The deaths occurred while the subjects were either in San Diego County jails or involved in interactions with San Diego police. But the panel said California’s Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act requires that any investigation into police misconduct must be completed within one year or dismissed.

Each of the 22 cases have passed the one-year limit, with some going back to 2011.

San Diego County spokeswoman Alex Bell said each of the 22 cases of police-involved deaths have already undergone a criminal investigation by police. But a citizens review panel adds an additional layer of scrutiny untied to police that can result in punitive measures and policy recommendations.

Sherrie Hubble’s suicidal son, Simon, was shot dead by San Diego deputies in 2015 after they saw him carrying a screwdriver. Hubble told the San Diego Union-Tribune that it was a “bad idea” to end the investigation into her son’s death prematurely.

“Everybody should have the honor of having their case investigated by a citizens review board,” she said. “There are things they might look at that the detectives didn’t want to bother looking at.”

In one of the cases proposed to be dismissed, 36-year-old Hugo Barragan resisted arrest for a traffic violation in 2013. He drove to his grandparents house and ran inside, but deputies chased him in the house and “eventually subdued [Barragan] from a combination of Taser deployment, K-9 deployment, knee strikes, and attempted application of carotid restraint.”

By the time paramedics arrived, Barragan was dead. His cause of death was listed as “sudden cardiac arrest with acute methamphetamine and quetiapine intoxication during law enforcement restraint.”

Barragan’s grandmother, Rita Cameron, witnessed her grandson’s death.

“They killed him right in front of my recliner,” she said, adding: “Ten punches to the head. The police dog chewed his ear off, bit him in the leg. It was so brutal. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

In 2013, 16-year-old Rosemary Summers was sent to a juvenile detention center for girls after she violated probation by attending a rally for Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed in what became a highly controversial case. While in custody, detention center workers gave her mood-altering drugs for her behavior and later found her hanging by a bed sheet in her cell. Workers then rushed Summers to a hospital where she was put on life support, but died four days later.

According to a civil lawsuit later filed by her parents, juvenile detention center guards were aware that Summers had been contemplating suicide after they found a note she had written that said she wanted to hurt herself and “go to sleep and not wake up.”

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors settled with the family for $1 million.


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