Just three days after being admitted to Santa Rita Jail, an El Cerrito man suffering from schizophrenia was killed, allegedly by his cellmate, in what’s shaping up to be another lawsuit against the often-troubled correctional facility.
KTVU had the story on Monday about a man who broke into a Piedmont home on Grand Avenue and squatted there for two days just after Labor Day weekend, consuming about $1,000 worth of food and alcohol, and generally leaving a mess of things. 39-year-old Yuri Brand was quickly arrested, charged with burglary and trespassing, and hauled off to Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail on Monday.
But he was only there for three days before he was killed in his cell, according to KTVU, with the sheriff’s office saying his cellmate committed the murder. The Bay Area News Group reports that cellmate was 33-year-old Bryson Levy, who’d only been in Santa Rita Jail for 17 hours before this incident. Both were admitted into the facility’s Housing Unit 9, an area intended for people with mental illnesses. Brand was found somehow severely injured at 12:23 p.m. Wednesday, and was pronounced dead at 1:15 p.m.
That’s about all the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is saying right now. No cause of death, no motive, and no explanation of how this happened has been provided. Now Brand’s family wants answers, and they’ve lawyered up.
Brand’s mother, Erica Edgerly of Oakland, recalls the phone call she received from a sheriff’s deputy, nearly 24 hours after the incident happened. "Your son's dead," Edgerly tells KTVU the deputy told her. "I said, ‘Where?’ Where's his body?' He said, ‘I can’t tell you that it's an ongoing investigation."
Yuri Brand had reportedly suffered from schizophrenia after a traumatic head injury he suffered in high school, and his family said he’s been in and out of jail since. Just prior to the Piedmont squatting arrest, he’d been released from a San Luis Obispo jail, and was give nothing but $200 to get on an Amtrak train, and no proper medication other than ibuprofen, per KTVU. It’s not surprising that he immediately turned to crime again for survival.
Moreover, after his trespassing arrest, Brand refused to attend his hearing. Brand’s family's civil rights attorney says that should have been a red flag, plus Santa Rita Jail did not even list Brand on the roster in the wake of the incident.
“They’re told that he didn’t make it to court because he refused and then, when you then try to follow up, they are telling you he may have left Santa Rita Jail,” attorney Adante Pointer said to NBC Bay Area. “But they don’t tell you he left Santa Rita Jail in a body bag. That's a problem. We must do better.”
Santa Rita Jail has certainly had its problems over the years, and KTVU adds that Brand is the 68th inmate to die in custody there in less than ten years. There may be some shared responsibility with the San Luis Obispo jail that just let a mentally ill man out without resources or wherewithal. But either way, it seems this is going in the direction of a civil suit that’s going to point fingers at one or more correctional facilities.
Image: Jesstess87 via Wikimedia Commons