When the family of a man who was threatening to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge called the California Highway Patrol, they were doubtlessly trying to protect him from himself. Instead, it appears that his eventual arrest by the CHP didn't prevent his suicide — it just changed his place of death from the bridge to San Francisco County Jail.
As previously reported, 50-year-old Alberto Carlos Petrolino was found dead in SF County Jail Tuesday night, the victim of an "apparent suicide." When we spoke to the Sheriff's Department yesterday, we were told that he was arrested for violation of a stay-away order. The real story is a lot more complex, as he actually attracted police attention over fears that he was about to take his own life.
According to ABC7, Petrolino's family called CHP on Saturday, saying that "he told them he was going to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge." Officers found him "drunk on a bench at the bridge parking lot," where they "asked Petrolino if he was suicidal and he said he wasn't."
When CHP officers ran Petrolino's ID, they determined he had an outstanding arrest warrant for "allegedly violating a stay-away order for an old domestic-violence related charge because he called that person July 13," the Ex reports.
He had been ordered to appear at an alcohol abuse program last week but never showed, according to San Francisco's Public Defender's office (which is when the warrant for his arrest was issued). Instead of a treatment facility, Petrolino ended up at the bridge, where after repeated assurances that he wasn't going to kill himself after all, CHP took him to SF County Jail instead of to a hospital.
According to a statement released by the CHP, though their officers informed sheriff's deputies about the initial suicide call, Petrolino was jailed with the general population and not under a suicide watch.
Though she was unaware of the Saturday suicide threat, public defender Elizabeth Camacho filed "a request to the court that a person in custody be taken to a facility for medical treatment or evaluation" for Petrolino when they appeared in court on Monday, SF Weekly reports, after she was "struck by how distraught he was."
It's unclear if Petrolino ever got that evaluation, however: SF Sheriff's Department legal counsel Mark Nicco told SF Weekly that "the Sheriff's Department was not party to the [evaluation] request" and the Ex that he "was unable to say if one had even been conducted, due to confidentiality reasons."
"Camacho also asked in court that Petrolino be released from jail on his own accord," the Ex reports, "but the judge sided with the District Attorney’s Office when the prosecutor asked him to be held."
On Tuesday evening, deputies found Petrolino hanging from a shower stall at the jail, apparently dead by his own hand.
According to a statement sent by the Sheriff’s Department, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department Internal Affairs Unit, the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office are all performing "independent investigations," of Petrolino's death. As of publication time, none of the agencies have released any new information in the case.