Inmate Issiah Downes dies in S.F. jail
The San Francisco Chronicle, September 9, 2009
A 31-year-old inmate being held in San Francisco County Jail on assault and other charges died Monday night after an outburst during which sheriff’s deputies forcibly subdued him, authorities said Tuesday.
The inmate, Issiah Downes, had been in County Jail No. 1 at the Hall of Justice since being arrested March 8 on assault and resisting arrest allegations. Recently, he had been in the jail’s psychiatric ward, authorities said.
Lt. Mike Stasko of the police homicide detail said Downes was causing a disturbance in the ward and posed a risk to other inmates Monday evening, so four deputies forcibly moved him to a safety cell – a specially designed space used for inmates deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
“He attacked the deputies,” Stasko said. “After he assaulted the deputies, they laid him down. Then they had to take the restraints off him.”
At that point, Downes “stopped resisting and passed out,” Stasko said. “When they went to take the restraints off, he went comatose.”
Another homicide inspector, Robert Lynch, said deputies had used physical force, including handcuffs, but no pepper spray or batons to subdue Downes, who was 6 feet 1 and weighed 300 pounds.
“As they are getting ready to take the handcuffs off – he was so big they used two sets of handcuffs – he just all of a sudden goes limp,” Lynch said.
Jail medical staffers treated Downes promptly, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, sheriff’s spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said.
The medical examiner will conduct an autopsy.
Downes was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in an August 2000 incident in the Sunset District in which he punched a man, Vong Lieu, who died a month later. Downes was sentenced to four years in prison.