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San Diego Deputies Faulted for Jail Death

San Diego Deputies Faulted for Jail Death

by Christopher Zoukis

A civilian review board found that sheriff’s deputies lied and failed to take steps that could have saved a prisoner who swallowed meth before being booked into a San Diego Jail.

A sheriff’s official said jail staff thought Bernard Victorianne was suffering from psychological problems, not medical ones. On the September 2012 night that Victorianne, 28, was booked, however, he was screaming that “something was burning his insides.” He received no medical care and was put in solitary confinement rather than a medical observation unit where he would have been monitored.

A deputy reported that he had monitored Victorianne at an evening count. Video surveillance, however, showed the deputy passing by the cell rapidly. The next morning, Victorianne failed to retrieve his breakfast from his cell door; a deputy went in and tried waking Victorianne, who never responded. The deputy reported that he thought he saw Victorianne breathing, while another deputy stood in the doorway.

The two deputies violated policy requiring them to get the prisoner’s acknowledgement that he was OK, instead leaving after 41 seconds. When Victorianne’s body was found it was cold with rigor mortis setting in, and video surveillance showed the deputy who had gone into the cell later lied on a report form.

Victorianne’s death was ruled an accidental overdose. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in federal court in September 2014 on behalf of Victorianne’s parents, Bernard and Zelda. See: Victorianne v. County of San Diego, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Cal.), Case No. 3:14-cv-02170-WQH-BLM.

Just before the suit was filed, the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) made seven findings that deputies were guilty of misconduct for failing to follow prisoner count and other procedures, lying during a subsequent investigation and failing to properly investigate the death. The Board also found that jail medical staff knew of Victorianne’s overdose symptoms yet failed to monitor his medical condition.




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Related legal case

Victorianne v. County of San Diego