Three Santa Clara County Main Jail correctional officers are being charged with the murder of an inmate.
The guards – Matthew Farris, 27, Jereh Lubrin, 28, and Rafael Rodriguez, 27 – are accused of beating inmate Michael Tyree late last month so severely that it caused massive, and eventually fatal internal injuries. The guards are also accused of felony assault under the color of authority for beating another inmate minutes before their fatal assault on Tyree.
If convicted of the charges, the guards could face life in prison.
“These men violated the law, human dignity, and the job that they were sworn to do,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “They may have thought that their violence, enacted late at night in the obscurity of a jail cell and against a helpless and mentally ill inmate, was invisible. Today we see it for all of its brutality. Mr. Tyree was not invisible. His death was not invisible. We will see that there is justice.”
On August 26, at around 10:50 p.m., the three guards entered the cell of another inmate, Juan Villa, in the same “pod” as Tyree – and physically assaulted him. Soon afterward they entered Tyree’s cell. They were reportedly searching him and his cell for medication he was supposed to have taken earlier and may have hidden. After the closed-door beating – which left Tyree with numerous injuries all over his body – other inmates heard Tyree crying. Then they heard his body hit the floor.
Officer Lubrin and Officer Rodriguez re-entered Tyree’s cell just after midnight to find him dead on the floor, covered in his own waste. He was officially pronounced dead at 12:35 a.m.
The Felony Complaint and Statement of Facts were also released. The statement of facts revealed that Tyree was left for more than one hour after two of the suspects, Lubrin and Farris, had entered the cell while Rodriquez stood outside. According to Sgt. Mark Carrasco with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, “Inmate Tyree’s distinctive voice could be heard screaming, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, stop.’”
According to the statement, “at some point during this screaming period, Officer Rodriquez closed the door so that it was open a small amount.” Tyree suffered injuries to his face and head, along with injuries to his hips and upper arms.
The Medical Examiner estimated that internal injuries to his liver and spleen were so severe that he died within minutes of the trauma.
Michael Tyree was in custody related to his probation for a misdemeanor drug possession that was being monitored in Santa Clara County Superior Court’s mental health court. He was also charged with petty theft, possession of stolen property, and drug paraphernalia in three arrests this year by Campbell Police.
Read More: NBC Bay Area