SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - The FBI is now looking into inmate complaints at the Santa Clara County Main Jail and more deputies have been placed on leave amid the investigation into an inmate's death.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith called it an "unusual" time and said her office has received a wide range of complaints from alleged verbal abuse to use of force.
Eight Santa Clara County correctional deputies are on leave with pay since mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree was found unresponsive in his jail cell back on August 26. Among those on leave three jail guards accused of beating Tyree to death. Smith said since Tyree's they're reviewing up to 100 complaints.
“I hope people are not alarmed,” said Smith. “I hope they look at it as we are holding people accountable. We have over 1,400 deputies in this department. Thiis is unusual we are going through this but we are following up every lead, every direction that we can.”
A source confirms to KTVU one of the deputies on leave is Lance Scimeca, who is the president of the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association. Two weeks after Tyree's death, Scimeca posted a three-minute rant on YouTube.
“This harkens back to the silent witch trials, the hysteria and political rhetoric that is the administration is spewing forward has direct and unequaled effect in the work environment,” said Scimeca.
He criticizes the sheriff's decision to reopen past complaints and alludes to an environment of fear.
He also tells deputies to know their rights.
“I’m not sure that I’ve seen it but I have heard of it,” said Sheriff Smith. “I can't comment on personnel matters but any individual has their first amendment right to espouse anything that they want.”
This comes as mentally ill inmate 33-year-old Walter Roches was found dead in his jail cell Monday. Preliminary autopsy results don't indicate foul play. An exact cause of death could take weeks. Court documents obtained by KTVU say Roches had schizophrenia.