A trio of Santa Clara County jail deputies were arrested on Thursday in connection with the death of inmate Michael James Tyree, an act Sheriff Laurie Smith described as “heinous and cowardly.” The 31-year-old, who suffered from mental illness, died of internal bleeding as a result of trauma on August 27. He was found unclothed and covered in excrement.
The deputies, Rafael Rodriguez, Jereh Lubrin and Matthew Farris, claimed to have found Tyree unresponsive in his cell and attempted to revive him. Tyree’s injuries quickly raised questions, and the deputies were soon arrested.
Tyree had been mentally ill for a number of years and was being held in the jail on charges of theft and drug possession. He had been placed in an area set aside for inmates who require protective custody or have special needs and was waiting for space to open up at the Momentum Crisis Residential treatment program.
“The disappointment and disgust I feel cannot be overstated,” Smith said at an emotional news conference. “Because our investigation has concluded that three correctional officers … are the reason for this brutal murder of Michael Tyree.”
The deputies were the last people to see Tyree alive. Along with being areested, all three have been stripped of administrative privileges and placed on unpaid leave.
Tyree’s family is heartbroken, and his three sisters commented on the loss of both parents in the last year, stating that the family has experienced a great deal of sadness and loss.