Santa Barbara County Main Jail | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

A man was found dead minutes after being stripped and placed facedown in a single-occupancy “safety” cell at Santa Barbara’s Main Jail, a few hours after being arrested in Santa Maria and being placed on suicide watch, according to a statement from Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Raquel Zick.

Jonathan Paul Thomas, 45, was transported by Santa Maria Police after being arrested late Tuesday evening for misdemeanor domestic violence and felony false imprisonment. He was booked into the Main Jail around 1:32 a.m. on Wednesday, January 12, where he would be held on $10,000 bail.

According to authorities, Thomas “made statements about suicide” prior to and during the booking process, was deemed a danger to himself, and placed in a single-occupant “safety” cell.

Custody deputies stripped Thomas of his clothing — protocol for individuals placed on suicide watch to prevent any risk of self-harm — and “he was placed face down onto the floor of the cell, his handcuffs were removed, and custody deputies exited the cell,” Zick said.

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Minutes later, according to the statement, custody deputies returned to the cell to find Thomas unresponsive. “Custody deputies then began lifesaving measures, including CPR, and requested an emergency medical response,” Zick said.

Wellpath, County Fire, and American Medical Response responded to the call, but lifesaving measures were unsuccessful, and Thomas was declared dead shortly after 2 a.m. on Wednesday. 

Thomas’s next-of-kin have been notified, and an autopsy has been scheduled for Thursday, January 13. The cause of death is unknown at this time, and authorities have not released any more information. The investigation remains ongoing. 

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text TALK to 741741.


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