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Sonoma County man dies of ‘medical emergency’ in jail booking area

A man died at the Sonoma County Jail early Saturday after experiencing an unspecified medical emergency inside the facility’s booking area.

The man, a 59-year-old Sonoma County resident, was arrested by two Rohnert Park officers the night before on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance and a probation violation, authorities said.

He was undergoing medical screening by correctional staff before being booked into the jail when he experienced the emergency, prompting employees to start CPR and call an ambulance, Santa Rosa Police Lt. Dan Marincik said. Marincik said he could not elaborate on the nature of the man’s medical emergency.

The man was pronounced dead at the facility at about ?12:30 a.m. and the Santa Rosa Police Department was called to investigate the in-custody death as part of a protocol for critical incidents involving Sonoma County law enforcement.

“The basic goal comes down to finding out what happened, just establishing a timeline not only for after he was arrested but what occurred before,” Marincik said.

The man’s death came about two hours after Rohnert Park police were notified of a 10:30 p.m. report of a suspicious person at the Las Casitas De Sonoma Mobile Home Park on Bridgit Drive, Marincik said.

Two officers responded and took the man into custody. Marincik provided few details about the arrest, saying investigators were still gathering information about the incident as of Saturday morning and had not yet interviewed the officers involved.

They also needed to review body-worn camera footage captured during the arrest.

“At this point, we don’t believe that … other than placing into handcuffs, that any other force was used,” Marincik said of the preliminary investigation.

The officers then went to the Rohnert Park police station and, after a brief period of time, one of the officers drove the man to the jail.

The man was undergoing a medical evaluation as part of the standard booking practice but was not yet booked into the jail when he had the emergency, Marincik said.

The medical screening typically takes a few minutes and includes a physical evaluation of the arrestee, as well as taking their vital signs and asking questions about their medical history, Marincik added.

Marincik did not know whether the man complained of pain or injuries between his arrest and his arrival at the jail. As part of the department’s investigation, detectives will also review surveillance footage from the jail, he said.

The investigation will be forwarded to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office once it’s completed. Prosecutors will then determine whether criminal charges are warranted in the man’s death, Marincik said.

The Sonoma County Coroner’s Office will conduct an autopsy. The man’s name was not released Saturday pending notification of family.

Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety Lt. Jeff Justice said the department would conduct an administrative investigation into the incident and that the officers involved in the arrest are on administrative leave until they are interviewed by Santa Rosa detectives, per standard procedure.

The department referred further questions about the man’s arrest to the Santa Rosa Police Department.

The man was the second to die while in custody within a span of a week in Sonoma County. Santa Rosa resident Salvador Jimenez, 56, was pronounced dead March 1 at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital from what authorities said was a preexisting medical condition.

Jimenez was initially booked into the Sonoma County Jail Jan. 22 for a DUI and driving on a suspended driver’s license in two pending cases but was transferred to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital just over a month later to receive treatment for the undisclosed condition. His death is considered an in-custody death because Jimenez was still in the custody of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, the agency said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com.

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