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Correctional officers plead the fifth in inmate death

Bay City News Service
Saturday October 21, 2000

SANTA ROSA – Correctional officers who responded when an inmate became ill at the Sonoma County Jail last month are not talking to Santa Rosa police investigating the man’s subsequent death. 

The eight officers have invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to give information in a criminal investigation, according to Santa Rosa Police Commander Scott Swanson of the homicide investigation unit. 

“It does prove problematic when those persons closest to the event choose not to speak with us. It’s proving difficult,’’ Swanson said Friday morning. 

Assistant Sonoma County Sheriff Mike Costa says the officers’ refusal to give statements to Santa Rosa police may create suspicion in the public’s mind. 

“It really impairs the investigation and the system as a whole,’’ Costa said. 

Costa said other corrections officers throughout the state have for the past 15 years taken similar stances, particularly in Southern California. 

“This is not unique to Sonoma County. It’s just the first time it’s happened here,’’ Costa said. 

Santa Rosa police are investigating the death of Paul Raymond Daniel, 51, on Sept. 28. He was pronounced dead at Sutter Medical Center about an hour after being taken there from the jail. 

Police say Daniel was brought to the jail after his arrest in Petaluma on a warrant at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 27. He failed to report to breakfast the next morning. Guards found him sick in his cell and he became combative when restrained, according to police. During an exam by a jail nurse, he began vomiting and was taken to the hospital, police say. 

Santa Rosa police are investigating the incident rather than the sheriff’s department, which runs the jail, as part of police protocol. 

The corrections officers are required to cooperate with any internal investigation by their employer, the sheriff’s department, Swanson said. 

But Costa said statements given in that investigation cannot be used in any criminal proceeding. 

An autopsy failed to determine a cause of death, toxicology results are pending, and Daniel’s brain has been sent to Florida for forensic analysis, Swanson said. 

It was the third death at the jail this year. One inmate sliced his throat with a razor and another died of pneumonia while in prison. 

News of the correction’s officers’ silence coincides with an appearance in Santa Rosa tonight of two former police chiefs critical of police conduct nationwide. 

The forum, entitled “Transforming Police: What’s It Going to Take?’’ includes addresses by Penny Harrington, the first female police chief of a major U.S. city, and Ron Hampton, director of the National Black Police Association and a former Washington D.C. police officer.