Fight among detainees at San Diego County jail results in 19th death this year, marking grim record
A fight among detainees at a San Diego County jail results in the 19th death this year, marking grim record.
A 19th person has died in San Diego County custody this year, the Sheriff’s Department announced Thursday, marking a grim record for deaths in the local jail system.
The death came less than one week after Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill designed to reduce the number of people who die in county jails. San Diego holds the highest jail-mortality rate among California’s largest counties — and has for more than 10 years.
According to a statement issued by the sheriff’s homicide division, 52-year-old Raymond Vogelman was found with serious injuries near his bunk in the George Bailey Detention Facility in Otay Mesa sometime after 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Department officials said a fight broke out among several incarcerated people shortly before Vogelman was discovered.
His injuries were severe enough that jail staff summoned emergency medical personnel to render first aid. Vogelman was taken to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment. He did not survive his injuries.
“A sheriff’s family liaison officer has notified family members of his passing and we extend our condolences to the family and to those affected by his death,” the department said in a statement.
Vogelman was arrested March 3 by the San Diego Police Department on suspicion of burglary, the statement said. He was transferred to George Bailey early last month, although officials did not say why.
The victim had a scant criminal history, according to San Diego County court records. Vogelman’s arrest in March was the only file that came up in an index of historical cases on the court’s website.
A 76-year-old Hillcrest man previously filed for a restraining order against Vogelman, although details of the allegations contained therein were not immediately available. The judge reviewing the matter granted the order.
The Otay Mesa jail is the county’s largest, with a capacity for 1,390 men. According to the daily population count published by the Sheriff’s Department, 1,238 people are currently incarcerated at the facility.
Vogelman was a San Diego resident, the statement said, adding that information about the incident so far “is fragmentary and has not been completely verified.” The department said it will provide additional information as it becomes available.
The Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board, which investigates in-custody deaths, was notified of Vogelman’s demise.
Over the last several years, the Sheriff’s Department has grappled with a growing number of deaths in its jails. A harshly critical state audit released earlier this year found that San Diego County had the highest jail mortality rate among large California counties.
A similar analysis earlier this year by the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board also confirmed that San Diego’s lockups were among the deadliest county jail systems in California.
The 19 fatalities in San Diego County jails this year includes one man who was granted a compassionate release hours before he died earlier this year.
Sheriff’s Department officials say that even one death in custody is too many.
They say they are doing the best they can to prevent deaths in county jails by boosting the correctional healthcare budget, adding staff and tightening their booking process to help screen for mental illness, among other things.
But nothing the department has done has worked, and the continuing deaths have sparked protests across the community.
Yusef Miller of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition advocacy group said Sheriff Anthony Ray must do more to protect people in custody — whether that means improving healthcare, responding to fights more immediately or repairing broken intercom and camera systems.
“This thing is out of control,” Miller said Wednesday, hours before his group planned a demonstration outside the Sheriff’s Department headquarters in Kearny Mesa. “We are in a crisis.
“The sheriff is responsible for every single life in that jail,” he said. “We need an overhaul of the entire system.”
The deaths also have pushed jail operations to the forefront of issues in the November sheriff’s election between Undersheriff Kelly Martinez and former San Diego city prosecutor John Hemmerling.
In 2021, 18 people died in San Diego jails, which was a record high until Wednesday. The Sheriff’s Department now has exceeded last year’s total number of deaths with nearly three months remaining in the calendar year.
Assembly Bill 2343, the “Saving Lives in Custody Act,” authored by San Diego Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, sought to address the issue of continuing deaths in California jails.
The legislation would have required the Board of State and Community Corrections, a state panel that sets minimum standards for jail operations, to improve training for jail staff, especially in regard to mentally ill incarcerated people.
It also would have ensured that deputies conduct “sufficiently detailed safety checks of at-risk incarcerated persons to determine that the person is still alive.”
But Newsom vetoed the legislation last week, saying he opposed adding members to the state panel that sets policy for local jails.
“BSCC has had a thirteen-member board since 2013. I am concerned that adding two members unnecessarily grows the board and could impede its ability to timely carry out its mission,” he wrote in his veto message.
The governor did not explain his opposition to other portions of the bill.
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