After 31-year-old mentally ill inmate Michael James Tyree was found dead in his cell, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith arrested and filed murder charges against three of her corrections deputies. Now CBS SF reports a new wrinkle in the investigation into the department's use of force.
Some deputies, though not those charged, had allegedly been exchanging racist, hateful text messages reminiscent of SFPD's own racist texting scandal in advance of the alleged murder. The Santa Clara texts were reportedly anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Vietnamese, and antisemitic.
“For anyone to think in this manner or to act in this manner, I think is abhorrent, and particularly someone who wears a badge,” Smith said.
To assert, as some surely will, that the texts were wholly unrelated to the alleged abusive treatment and murder would, I'd argue, be naive. The attitudes of the deputies as a whole couldn't be more pertinent to understanding the atmosphere that led to Tyree's death.
“Our investigation is nearly completed, but if what we find is true, I don’t believe that anyone with these kinds of attitudes belong in law enforcement,” Smith added.