Protests over inmate deaths at or near Santa Rita Jail

DUBLIN (BCN) A vigil and rally for two people who recently died at or near the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin was held in front of the jail from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, according to Cat Brooks, an Oakland mayoral candidate who's with the Anti Police-Terror Project.

Brooks said the event concerns the deaths of Jessica St. Louis, a 26-year-old Berkeley woman whose body was discovered near the passenger pick-up/drop-off area at the Dublin station at about 5:30 a.m. last Saturday, about four hours after she was released from the jail, and of 23-year-old Dujuan Armstrong on June 23.

Brooks alleged in a news release that Armstrong and St. Louis "were killed by Santa Rita" and that the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and jail staff "have blood on your hands."

Brooks said family members of St. Louis and Armstrong and their supporters will "demand justice" at the rally.

Alameda County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said, "We're listening to what she (Brooks) and her group are saying." But Kelly said, "They don't know all the facts and are rushing to judgment. To say that we have blood on our hands is unfair."

In her release, Brooks said, "There should be no circumstances under which women are released into the dead of night, when public transit is closed and no programs are open to transition women into support services. Jessica would be alive today were it not for this violent practice that puts girls and women into harm's way."

Brooks said, "In Jessica's memory, we vow to put an end to this inhumane practice."

But Kelly said jail officials can't keep people in custody after they're released and gave St. Louis a BART ticket when she left.

Kelly also said that St. Louis had a cellphone and had access to phones while she was held in jail for 11 days for arrest warrants for various cases.

Alameda County court records indicate that St. Louis was charged with felony grand theft for an offense last Nov. 16 and that she entered a not guilty plea on June 15.

Court records also indicate that she was charged with two misdemeanor counts of second-degree burglary and one count each of misdemeanor grand theft and misdemeanor vandalism for offenses last Sept. 29.

Kelly said after St. Louis's body was found, investigators found drugs inside her body cavities and a medical exam showed no signs of foul play and the preliminary indication is that she died from a drug overdose, although a toxicology report hasn't yet been completed.

Kelly said the sheriff's office didn't previously disclose Armstrong's death to news reporters because "there are a lot of unknowns we need to resolve and investigate."

However, he said sheriff's officials followed its protocols and told the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the District Attorney's Office and the coroner's bureau about his death.

Kelly said Armstrong had recently been convicted of burglary for an offense in Fremont but was considered a low-level offender and was allowed to serve his jail time on weekends.

Kelly said that when Armstrong came to Santa Rita on the night of June 22, which was a Friday, he was "agitated, aggressive and uncooperative" and told jail officials in a conversation that was recorded on deputies' body cameras that he was high on cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and prescription pills.

A nurse who examined a sample of Armstrong's urine found that it contained controlled substances, he said.

Jail officials started to move Armstrong to the jail's clinic but he continued to be uncooperative and tried to run away so deputies restrained him and he went to the ground and stopped breathing, according to Kelly.

A nurse at the scene began CPR on Armstrong and he was transferred to Stanford Valley Care in Pleasanton but was pronounced dead there on the morning of June 23, Kelly said.

An autopsy was done on Armstrong but it's not yet complete because investigators are still waiting for toxicology results, according to Kelly.

The cause and manner of Armstrong's death has yet to be determined but at this point there are no obvious sings of physical trauma to his body that could have been caused by jail personnel who were restraining him, Kelly said.

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