Autopsy shows man died from COVID-19 while in custody, family files lawsuit against San Diego County
In the last 13 months, San Diego County has paid out 73 claims against the Sheriff’s Dept. alleging excessive force and lapses in medical care, costing $14 million
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The family of a man that contracted COVID-19 and died while in a San Diego jail is suing the county. The attorney for the family is now speaking out after an autopsy report confirmed the man died from coronavirus last year.
News 8’s LaMonica Peters spoke with the attorney and State Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez who talked about the alarming number of jail deaths in San Diego County and what she plans to do about it.
The family said they were expecting their son to come home but when COVID-19 spread in jails and prisons, all of that changed. Now they want San Diego County to be held responsible for his death.
Thirty-four-year-old Mark Armendo was being held at the Vista Detention Facility on June 29, 2020 when he was found unresponsive in his cell. He was transported to UCSD Medical Center, tested positive for COVID-19 and died on August 21.
“We believe that the county should’ve implemented, much sooner, widespread testing and quarantine procedures. We believe the county should have consistently enforced social distancing and masks requirements in the jails,” said Trenton Lamere, an Attorney with Singleton Schreiber McKenzie & Scott, LLP.
Armendo’s autopsy report confirmed that he died from coronavirus. Then his mother, Patrice Clines, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against San Diego County in January. After requesting the autopsy from the county, her attorney received the report just last week.
“Mr. Armendo was a person and not just another number in the jail system. I think it’s important to recognize that, while he may have been sentenced to custody for things he did in his past, he wasn’t sentenced to die,” Lamere said.
In the last 13 months, San Diego County has paid out 73 claims against the San Diego County Sheriffs Department alleging excessive force and lapses in medical care, costing taxpayers over $14 million.
“It seems atrocious that we are using taxpayer funds to pay for something that should never happen, but these are human lives. If you look at some of the deaths, we can’t just discount them just because they’re done in jail,” said Lorena Gonzalez, a State Assemblymember representing District 80.
More than 150 people have died in San Diego County jails since 2009. Assemblywoman Gonzalez and other Democratic law makers have asked the State Audit Committee for an independent review of sheriff’s department deaths over the last 15 years.
News 8 reached out to the county and sheriff’s department and they told us they don’t comment on pending cases.
Lamere said the county has responded to their lawsuit with a motion to dismiss their case. Now they’re just waiting for the case to make its way through the courts.