San Jose

Man in Custody at Santa Clara County Jail Died of Natural Causes, Sepsis: Coroner

The Santa Clara County Jail has come under fire for its allegedly brutal, unjust practices.

A mentally ill man who died at the Santa Clara County jail in September, shortly after being doused with pepper-spray and shot with a barrage of plastic bullets, died of "natural causes," according to an autopsy report.

Walter Roches, 32, of San Jose, was found to have died from sepsis — a severe blood infection — from a chronic urinary tract infection. High blood pressure and a history of drug use were also contributing factors in his death, the medical examiner concluded.

Roches’ body was found Sept. 28, one week after he was involved in a confrontation with guards that led to his forcible removal from his cell. 

After Roches' death, Sheriff Laurie Smith banned guards and medical staff from using plastic bullets and chemical sprays when dealing with mentally ill or disabled patients. 

The Santa Clara County jail has been the subject of criticism and heightened scrutiny after a slew of suspicious deaths, with many questioning officers’ use of force.

Three deputies — Rafael Rodriguez, Matthew Farris and Jereh Lubrin — are facing murder charges after another inmate, Michael Tyree, was allegedly beaten to death in August.

Tyree had been arrested for a violation of probation and a minor drug charge, according to arrest records.

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