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Santa Barbara Grand Jury Reports on Jail Death

Accuses Sheriff’s Office of Obstructing Investigation

There have been two suicide deaths in County Jail since last July. | Credit: Paul Wellman

On the eve of the release of a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report scrutinizing the jail suicide of 45-year-old Alexander Braid, Sheriff’s Office officials announced another inmate died by suicide while in custody. Joseph Rose, age 47, succumbed to self-inflicted injuries last Sunday at Cottage Hospital, five days after guards discovered him unconscious in the main jail building. Originally from Honolulu, Rose had been in custody for approximately a year and three months awaiting trial on charges of burglary and battery when he died. Sheriff’s officials declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.

In its report on Braid’s suicide, the Grand Jury highlights potential gaps and deficiencies in jail booking protocols that may have contributed to his death. The report also accuses the Sheriff’s Office of actively impeding its investigation by delaying and ignoring requests for information. “The Jury’s role in this case was to investigate the circumstances of the death, determine the facts, and make recommendations with the goal of improving local government operations,” the report reads. “The Jury regrets that, for the most part, the Sheriff’s Office seemed more interested in obstructing than working cooperatively with the Jury toward that goal.”

On the afternoon of July 5, 2018, four Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Braid outside his home in Goleta, the report says. He appeared drunk and was reportedly acting aggressively toward another resident in the house. Deputies, two of whom were still within their probationary period, handcuffed Braid and placed him in the rear seat of one of their patrol cars, where a dashboard camera showed him growing increasingly agitated. He complained he was thirsty and began violently slamming his head against the interior. “A family member who was present told the Jury they had important information about [Braid’s] mental health history but was not interviewed by deputies,” the report says.

In violation of their own procedures, deputies also failed to check Braid’s arrest record, the report claims, which would have shown he was arrested in December 2015 and engaged in “suicidal talk.” His behavior triggered an involuntary 5150 hold at the time and transport to Cottage Hospital for treatment.

On the way to the jail, Braid called out to God for help and continued smashing his head against the inside of the car, resulting in contusions to his forehead. Once inside the jail, Braid reportedly refused to answer questions from a nurse about his mental state and was escorted to a cell to “sleep it off,” the report continues. The Grand Jury asserts Braid should have been subjected to a more rigorous psychiatric evaluation, given his history, level of agitation, and self-harming behavior. Video shows Braid entering Cell C-9 at 7:10 p.m. At 7:35 p.m., a guard found him unconscious and radioed for help. At first, guards couldn’t find the cellblock’s emergency resuscitation equipment, and when they did, it didn’t work properly. Braid was declared dead at 8:02 p.m.

In his obituary, Braid’s family remembered him as “genuine, loving, humorous, and kindhearted.” A graduate of Santa Barbara High School, he worked as a salesman and enjoyed surfing, they said.

The Sheriff’s Office has 60 days to respond to the report. Spokesperson Kelly Hoover said the department takes the Grand Jury’s findings seriously and “will issue a detailed response well within the time frame, including correcting several inaccuracies.” She went on to say that over the years relatively few inmates have died by suicide in the County Jail. “To put it in perspective, approximately 17,000 inmates are admitted to the jail each year, yet since 2001 there have been four in-custody deaths as a result of suicide.” That figure includes Rose’s death last week, Hoover said.


If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting themselves, call 9-1-1 or the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. A list of regional resources can be found at countyofsb.org/admhs.

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