The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office received death threats after the media released video footage of the death of a mentally ill inmate.
In an emailed response to questions from New Times, Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said the department has received "numerous" threats directed at specific individuals and jail custody staff since March 16. That's the same day the SLO Tribune published portions of jail surveillance footage of Andrew Holland, an Atascadero man who died in the jail after being strapped into a restraint chair for 46 hours in January 2017.
"We believe they are related to the Holland video because of the nature of the threats, and they began on Friday when the video was released." Cipolla wrote.
The footage of Holland's death shows deputies watching as Holland writhes and loses consciousness while lying on the floor of his cell shortly after being released from the chair. A later portion of the video shows a custody deputy smiling and laughing while standing with other staff around Holland's body.
Angry comments, including some aimed at the jail staff, flooded the Sheriff's Office's Facebook page.
"You employ some sick, sadistic individuals," one commenter wrote. "You'll get your due. One way or another."
Cipolla said the threats were phoned in. As of March 21, the threats were under investigation, but no arrests had been made. Meanwhile, security around the Sheriff's Office and county jail was tightened.
"We have a duty and a moral obligation to protect our employees from harm," Cipolla said.
On March 20, the Sheriff's Office called in a bomb task force after a suspicious package was discovered near the front door of the jail. Visitors at the jail were evacuated, and the street in front of the jail was closed to traffic while the task force examined the package. Δ