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Man in sheriff’s custody dies of complications from ‘several long-term’ illnesses, county says

A 43-year-old man who was being held in San Diego Sheriff’s Department custody died at a hospital Tuesday from complications brought on by “several long-term illnesses,” officials said.

Aaron Bonin was found unresponsive on the floor of his cell at the San Diego Central Jail on Oct. 24 and then transported to UC San Diego Medical Center where he died, sheriff’s officials said in a news release.

The Sheriff’s Department runs the county’s seven jails, which have been plagued with a record number of people dying while in custody.

Bonin is at least the 20th person to have died in custody this year, including one person who died hours after his compassionate release following a long illness.

“A sheriff’s family liaison officer has been assigned to work with (Bonin’s) family,” sheriff’s officials said in a news release. “We extend our condolences to the family and to those affected by this death.”

Bonin was jailed most recently on suspicion of battery of a police officer, assault with a deadly weapon and an outstanding warrant stemming from another alleged confrontation with a law enforcement official.

He had been at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County before being sent to the jail in downtown San Diego.

“While in custody, Mr. Bonin was evaluated and treated for several documented medical and mental health concerns, which were identified upon his transfer from Patton State Hospital. Sheriff medical staff referred him to local hospitals multiple times for acute care,” officials said.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board and homicide detectives were notified of Bonin’s death.

His death remains under investigation, sheriff’s officials said.

An investigation by the Union-Tribune revealed in 2019 that San Diego County had the highest jail mortality rate among the state’s largest counties.

In February of this year, the California State Auditor issued a sharply critical report prompted by 185 deaths in San Diego County’s jails over 15 years. The report found that the jails had not provided adequate medical and mental health care to people in custody, and that state lawmakers needed to force change.

The report suggested many changes.

The Sheriff’s Department said earlier this year that it is making changes, including improving access to medical information, outfitting deputies in the jails with body-worn cameras and allowing the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board to go to scenes where people have died in jail.

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected a bill inspired by the audit, citing as problematic its requirement to add two more seats to a 13-person board that sets standards for detention facilities.

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