San Quentin State Prison guard dies from coronavirus

San Quentin, opened in 1852 on the shore of San Francisco Bay, is the state's oldest prison.
San Quentin, opened in 1852 on the shore of San Francisco Bay, is the state’s oldest prison.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

A guard at San Quentin State Prison died Sunday morning of complications from COVID-19.

Sgt. Gilbert Polanco, an Army veteran, was admitted to a San Jose hospital in early July and was on life support, ABC7 News reported. Polanco had worked at San Quentin since 1988.

There have been 261 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff members at San Quentin, but Polanco is the first correctional officer there to die from the illness, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

At least 24 inmates at the facility have been killed by the coronavirus. The outbreak has been linked to the transfer of inmates to San Quentin from a state prison in Chino. San Quentin inmate Pedro Arias, 58, who had been on death row since 1990 for first-degree murder, died Sunday at a local hospital from what appeared to be COVID-19 complications, officials said.

Polanco becomes the ninth employee of the California prison system to die of COVID-19.

Ron Broomfield, acting warden at San Quentin, said in a statement Sunday that Polanco was a beloved friend and colleague.


“Sgt. Gilbert Polanco demonstrated unwavering commitment and bravery as a peace officer working the front line every day during this devastating pandemic. His memory is carried on in the hearts of all the men and women who continue to battle this deadly virus at San Quentin,” Broomfield said. “We mourn together with his family and pray for their peace and comfort in the midst of their immeasurable loss.”

A GoFundMe campaign created for Polanco’s family has raised more than $66,000.