Less than an hour after he was arrested downtown on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs, 56-year-old Santa Barbara resident Joel Huerta lost consciousness and died at County Jail.

According to Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover, Santa Barbara police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call in the 500 block of East De La Guerra Street made contact with Huerta at approximately 12:30 a.m. “Due to his level of impairment,” said Hoover in a press statement, “SBPD Officers placed restraints on him and brought him to the Santa Barbara County Jail.” He arrived at around 12:50 a.m.

Jail medical staff attempted to assess Huerta, but he refused to answer any questions, said Hoover. He was taken to a cell, and once his restraints were removed, he “almost immediately he became unresponsive,” Hoover said. Medical staff and Sheriff’s deputies performed CPR and applied a defibrillator, and County Fire paramedics arrived and continued resuscitation efforts, but Huerta couldn’t be revived.

“An investigation is being conducted by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Santa Barbara Police Department,” said Hoover. “The Coroner’s Office is conducting a death investigation to determine cause and manner of death. An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow.” An official cause and manner of death is pending toxicology and lab results, Hoover said, which will take several weeks to complete.


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