Marin County deputies who cuffed psych patient, who later died, did not violate policy: records

Internal and outside investigations into the death of a Richmond man who died at a psychiatric hospital in Marin County while in the custody of police found that the three deputies who cuffed the 46-year-old man did not use excessive force and acted within policy, according to police transparency records released this week.   

Outside police departments, the Solano County District Attorney and Internal Affairs investigators all found that Marin County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Scranton, and deputies Craig Hunter and Jonathan Harrison did nothing wrong when Silivenusi Pacelli Namato Ravono died on Aug. 18, 2018. This is the first time that the officers' names have been made public. 2 Investigates obtained these records under a new law, SB 1421, which mandates that police release investigations into use-of-force cases that cause death or great bodily injury.

There were four other officers from the Central Marin Police Authority and three security officers from Marin General identified in the report, but their names were redacted. 

The 174-page release of documents also redacted Ravono's name in most cases, but his last name was left on some of the pages. A Google search of the death quickly revealed who the case was about.

"I found the conduct of all the officers to be exemplary," wrote a San Rafael police lieutenant, whose name was redacted. "The officers and deputies displayed great patience and compassion as they dealt with the subject who was clearly agitated and confused." 

The lieutenant noted that 66 people were interviewed, 58 reports were created, 159 pages of police reports were written and 50 pages of coroner's documents were released. In addition, specially trained crisis officers tried 22 times to obtain verbal compliance before detaining him and deputies asked him 16 times if he was OK. Ravono was hit in the shoulder and put in control holds, but no weapons were ever used on him, the report stated.

 "At no time did I see or hear any behavior that was angry, rude or unprofessional," the lieutenant wrote. 

San Rafael police was one department who investigated Ravono's death, which the coroner ruled was the result of cardiopulmonary arrest during a violent struggle with police and  "excited delirium." The coroner also noted that Ravono had enlarged heart and was overweight and lacked appropriate clothing on a cold night. The coroner also noted Ravono hadn't been taking his medications.

What's new in the release of documents is that Ravano's family had called police many times before to place him in psychiatric holds. Some time before his death, Richmond police had been called to assist him and tased him in the process. The date of that was redacted from the report. 

Ravono's family has not filed a formal opposition to his death, according to a records search of civil rights lawsuits in Northern California. 

Some of the circumstances surrounding Ravono's death had already been known. 

Ravono was taken to Marin General Hospital's emergency department by a friend because he was acting erratically and suffering from a psychological emergency, police had already said. The newly released documents show that Ravano had been grinding his teeth, talking to himself and quoting the Bible.

At the hospital, he decided to leave and walk around a neighborhood. He was taken this time into custody and returned to a seclusion room at Psychiatric Emergency Services unit at
250 Bon Air Road in Greenbrae that is operated by the Main County Department of Health and Human Services.

At the time, police said Ravono became violent and physically resisted the police officers and deputies when his handcuffs were removed. He started shaking a water bottle on the ground, which made the floor all wet, the documents show. Sgt. Scranton tried to control him and fell on top of him, hurting his own head in the process, the documents show. The reports describe the scene as a "melee." Officers used four sets of handcuffs to restrain him.   

During a struggle, Ravono became unresponsive, and law enforcement and emergency medical personnel made resuscitation and lifesaving efforts but Ravono was pronounced dead.