Contra Costa County DA finds insufficient evidence to prosecute deputies in 2018 in-custody death

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No charges will be filed against two Contra Costa County sheriff deputies for the in-custody death of an Oakley man in 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by the county District Attorney's Office.

The investigation concluded there is insufficient evidence for criminal prosecution against Deputies Erik Vawter and Brian McDevitt. Both men were present when Michael Hernandez became unresponsive and without a pulse on Oct. 30, 2018, shortly after the deputies apprehended Hernandez for endangering his infant daughter and assaulting the child's mother, prosecutors said.   

Hernandez was taken to a hospital, where additional attempts to revive him were made and he was eventually put on life support. The following day, he was taken off life support and declared dead.   

The report is part of the Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incidents Protocol -- adopted by every law enforcement agency in the county -- that requires an investigation of all incidents where officers or civilians are shot or die during an encounter with law enforcement.   

The sole purpose of the district attorney's investigation is to determine if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed during a fatal encounter with law enforcement, prosecutors said.   

On the early morning hours of Oct. 30, 2018, deputies responded to a report of Hernandez running naked outside his residence, choking his 3-month-old daughter and screaming that he had to remove the devil from her, according to the district attorney's report.   

The child's mother stabbed Hernandez several times with a kitchen knife before their baby wound up in the hands of a neighbor and Hernandez started choking the infant's mother, according to the report.   Neighbors intervened and held Hernandez face down outside his residence until deputies arrived at 3:38 a.m. and placed Hernandez in handcuffs. Both deputies attempted to speak with the suspect and when they rolled him over, they saw him foaming from the mouth.   

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When deputies noticed Hernandez was unresponsive and without a pulse, they removed the handcuffs and provided emergency medical aid, according to the report, which found that deputies did not apply any physical force during their response and were not responsible for the suspect's death.   

An autopsy noted Hernandez died from complications of acute cocaine toxicity, according to the report.   

At the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office coroner's inquest on Sept. 24, 2019, the jury returned a verdict of death caused by accident.