Jail inmates held in San Francisco's Hall of Justice say sheriff's deputies have forced them to fight "gladiator-style," San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Thursday.
Adachi said Thursday that his office was alerted to the allegedly deputy-orchestrated fights by the father of an inmate via email on March 12. Garcia, who is of Hawaiian and Filipino descent, said he felt he was being bullied as a result of his race and feared for his life.
Adachi interviewed the man's son, Ricardo Palikiko Garcia, who confirmed that he had been forced to fight twice and that the deputies were planning another fight.
Garcia — who is in his 20s, weighs about 150 pounds and stands 5 feet 9 inches tall — said he was injured in the fights and made to go up against an inmate who weighed at least twice what he does.
San Francisco prosecutors called the alleged conduct "deplorable" in a statement Thursday.
"Common sense indicates that such conduct does not occur without the knowledge of numerous people," the district attorney's office said in its statement. "These allegations require an independent and thorough investigation into the practices and supervision at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department."
Garcia said San Francisco Deputy Scott Neu, as well as deputies Eugene Jones, Clifford Chiba and another deputy with the last name Staehly, made him fight inmate Stanly Harris.
Harris, a black man who is also in his 20s and stands about 6 feet tall and weighs over 300 pounds, was interviewed by Adachi and confirmed that he was forced to fight Garcia on two separate occasions.
Three other inmates — Keith Richardson, Jonathan Christopher and Quincy Lewis — were also interviewed by a pro bono private investigator.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said Thursday that he found out about the allegations this morning and that the four deputies have since been reassigned to posts where they do not interact with inmates.
Mirkarimi said that while he had never heard of such activities occurring within the jail, he did say that the seventh floor jail in the Hall of Justice is "barbaric" and should have been shut down decades ago, explaining that it is an outdated facility and that areas of the jail cannot be seen on video surveillance cameras.
He said the inmates have been moved to the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno.
Mirkarimi said that the two bailiffs who allegedly knew about these incidents but did not report their fellow deputies, Deputy Aquino and Deputy Collins, have not yet been reassigned since they were not scheduled to work Thursday.
Mirkarimi said his office will not tolerate such behavior and invites the federal government and the U.S. Department of Justice to assist in the investigation to ensure that these allegations are fully investigated and that any biased behavior or cultural issues with the sheriff's department are detected and corrected.