DUBLIN, Calif. (AP) - One of three California jail guards arrested on suspicion of murder in the death of an inmate proclaimed his innocence and said he never touched the 31-year-old man.
Rafael Rodriguez said the guard uniform he wore the night authorities say he and two other officers entered inmate Michael Tyree's cell was clean, showing no signs that he made contact with the inmate, he told the San Jose Mercury News in an exclusive interview published Sunday.
"It sucks being in here for something I didn't do,'' Rodriguez said while seated behind protective glass in the Dublin jail's visiting area.
His arrest on Thursday on suspicion of murder in the death of Tyree is the first time he has been on the other side of the law, he said. Two other officers, Jereh Lubrin and Matthew Farris, were also arrested and placed in protective custody in Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail as an added precaution.
Well-groomed and wearing a red jail jumpsuit, Rodriguez acknowledged that he had been inside Tyree's pod to search it but maintained that no one forced Tyree to take his pills or laid a hand on him, as alleged. He said the Santa Clara County sheriff's investigation is relying on hearsay from inmates and making things up.
Sgt. James Jensen, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said in response to Rodriguez's claims that there's "enough evidence to arrest the three correctional officers, including Rafael Rodriguez. If we felt we did not have enough evidence, we would not have made the arrest.''
The county medical examiner concluded the mentally ill man died of massive internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma, his liver and spleen lacerated, his body having cuts and bruises.