A 22-year-old Chula Vista man who died in July at the downtown San Diego Central Jail overdosed on fentanyl and methamphetamine, sheriff’s officials said Wednesday night citing the final results of an autopsy.
Saxon Fredrick Rodriguez died the morning of July 20 after being found unresponsive in his cell, according to San Diego sheriff’s Lt. Thomas Seiver.
Rodriguez was the seventh person in 2021 to die in San Diego County jail custody. As of Wednesday, at least 15 people had died in the Sheriff’s Department-operated jail system, including two last week.
According to Seiver, Chula Vista police officers arrested Rodriquez on July 16 on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon that was not a firearm and indecent exposure. Four days later, he was found unresponsive in the cell he shared with two other men.
Though foul play was not suspected, the sheriff’s homicide unit investigated Rodriguez’s death, as it does for all in-custody deaths.
In a news release published the day after Rodriguez died, Seiver said Rodriguez tested positive for fentanyl during a presumptive test conducted that day by the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Homicide investigators recently received the full autopsy report from the Medical Examiner’s Office, Seiver said in a Wednesday night news release.
“The cause of death was combined fentanyl and methamphetamine toxicity, and the manner of death is an accident,” Seiver said.
Rodriguez died three weeks after the Joint Legislative Audit Committee of the California Assembly and Senate voted to review practices inside San Diego County jails to find out why the mortality rate is so high. A six-month investigation by the Union-Tribune published in 2019 found the Sheriff’s Department has averaged more than one in-custody death per month dating back to at least 2009.
The “Dying Behind Bars” series concluded San Diego County has the highest jail-mortality rate among California’s largest counties — though the Sheriff’s Department disputed the findings and said its own reports showed the mortality rate was on par with other urban counties.
A report from the state lawmakers reviewing the inmate-mortality rate is expected early next year.
Last week, a 63-year-old man died at a hospital more than two weeks after falling ill while jailed at the Vista Detention Facility. Sheriff’s officials have not released his name as they search for his family for notification purposes. Seiver released few other details about him or his illness, except to say he’d been hospitalized for unspecified “medical reasons.”
On Saturday, 57-year-old Robert Dwayne Moniger told deputies at the Central Jail during breakfast that he was not feeling well. He became unresponsive within minutes and died at the jail. The Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy Sunday, according to Seiver, but no preliminary information was released.
Moniger was believed to be at least the 15th inmate to die this year while in the local jail system.