Michael James Tyree’s death gained national attention, as the mentally ill inmate died under mysterious circumstances. According to reports, the 31-year-old man was beaten to death while incarcerated in Santa Clara County, California. Authorities have now confirmed three correctional officers, who reportedly found the inmate unresponsive, were arrested on suspicion of murder.
As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, Michael James Tyree was convicted of petty theft and sentenced to five days in jail. However, as he was mentally ill, he was awaiting transfer to a mental health facility.
On August 27, correctional officers Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez reported Tyree was found unresponsive inside his cell. Although they “tried to revive him,” it was simply too late.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Tyree died naked on the floor — covered in vomit, feces, and blood.
As the circumstances surrounding the inmate’s death were unclear, Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez were immediately placed on administrative leave.
The Clara County Medical Examiner later determined Michael James Tyree’s death was caused by “multiple cutaneous blunt-force injuries such as contusions, abrasions and lacerations in addition to lacerations of the liver and spleen with significant collection of blood in the abdominal space.” The official manner of death was determined to be homicide.
— San Francisco News (@SFnewsnow) September 4, 2015
Following the release of the coroner’s report, Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez were arrested on suspicion of murder. The three correctional officers are currently being held without bond.
As reported by the New York Times, Sheriff Laurie Smith received praise for her immediate response to the situation. However, she insists she was simply doing her job.
“As sheriff, it is my sworn duty and the sworn duty of every deputy and commander to follow every lead, no matter where that lead takes the investigation to bring those we believe guilty to justice.”
Sheriff Smith also expressed regret for the correctional officer’s alleged behavior, as it reflects badly on the sheriff’s department and law enforcement officials as a whole.
“… it pains me and every member of the sheriff’s office and every member within our law enforcement… Because those who are sworn to protect and serve lose their moral compass and commit criminal acts.”
It is hoped that the incident will bring much-needed attention to the treatment of mentally ill inmates. It is further hoped that Sheriff Laurie Smith’s response to the situation will serve as an example to others.
In addition to suspicion of murder, Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez are being held on charges of assault and conspiracy in Michael James Tyree’s death.
[Images via The New York Times/Santa Clara Sheriff Office]