DA investigating death of Oakland man left unattended in Santa Rita jail

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price on Wednesday publicly announced an investigation into the death of an Oakland man who was left for dead for days at Santa Rita Jail, a revelation first reported by KTVU.

Price said her team will now be looking at whether any sheriff's deputies or Wellpath nurses will be held criminally responsible for the Nov. 15, 2021, death of Maurice Monk, 45.

"Monk's death is a horrific tragedy for this community and his family," Price said. "And the number of deaths at this jail is unacceptable." 

Price said that the previous DA, Nancy O'Malley, had looked into Monk's death, but that investigation left "many unanswered questions."

Zach Linowitz, deputy district attorney, said he began looking into Monk's death, again in March. His office has not been able to get the "basic investigative materials" he sought from Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez but she's recently said she'd provide that to him by Nov. 17. 

"I'm happy they're looking into this," said Ty Clarke, one of the attorneys representing Monk's children in a suit that just settled with Alameda County for $7 million. "Much more needs to be done. We encourage the DA to look at Wellpath employees as well." 

To date, 68 people have died since 2014 at Santa Rita Jail, the country's 5th largest jail. 

Monk was the 57th death. 

He was a father and security guard who suffered from schizoaffective disorder and who was taken to jail after a missed court appearance for verbally threatening a bus driver when he refused to wear a mask during the pandemic. 

Exclusive video obtained by KTVU showed that deputies and nurses threw medication into Monk's jail cell and left him food trays, but no one had physically gone inside his room to find out why he hadn't been moving, eating, taking his pills or going outside for recreation time for three to four days. 

KTVU first made that story public one month ago.

Jail policy mandates that deputies check on people in the mental health unit, where Monk had been taken, every 30 minutes. 

Body camera video from inside the jail shows Monk had been lying there prone, half naked with a pool of urine at the foot of his bed, for days.

In fact, he had been there so long that the ink imprint of his jail shirt had stained his chest. Stacks of uneaten food trays and pills lay scattered on the floor.

In addition, an internal sheriff's investigation found that some deputies forged the wellness check timelines and failed to identify plenty of signs that Monk had been in medical distress, according to a federal lawsuit against the county. The lawsuit alleges that Monk died because he was denied adequate health care.

It's unclear if Sanchez has disciplined any of the deputies involved or named in the civil lawsuit. 

Sanchez, who was commander of the jail at the time, has declined speaking about the matter, citing the ongoing civil litigation. 

And the county has refused to release any Internal Affairs records into this case, saying they do not fall under any police transparency disclosure laws. 

Earlier this year, Price charged two other deputies with falsifying records in connection with the April 3, 2021, suicide of Vinetta Martin at Santa Rita Jail.

Those deputies were supposed to conduct direct visual observation checks every 30 minutes on Martin. 

But prosecutors charged the two deputies with doctoring the logbooks to make it appear as though they followed the procedure for direct visual observation. However, video evidence shows the deputies repeatedly failed to check on Martin for extended periods, sometimes as long as one hour and 47 minutes, contrary to their certifications, according to the district attorney's office.

Those deputies have pleaded not guilty. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@foxtv.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez.