News

Local group pushing for sheriff oversight questions recent deaths at county jail

Fixin’ San Mateo County calls for independent review and asks for the district attorney to step down from investigating the case

A San Mateo County Sheriff vehicle outside the courthouse in Redwood City on Feb. 2, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

After two people died either while in custody or after being in the custody of correctional officers at Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City, a grassroots organization pushing to establish civilian oversight of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is calling those deaths into question.

Fixin’ San Mateo County Board of Directors Chairperson Jim Lawrence said in a statement on Jan. 10, that there should an independent investigation into the two jail deaths. Lawrence said the organization did not believe that a review by the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, which is leading the investigation into the most recent death, would be genuinely independent.

"It is imperative that the independent review be done immediately and without any influence, direct or indirect, from the offices listed," Lawrence said in the statement, referring to the district attorney's and sheriff's offices.

San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe disagreed with Fixin' San Mateo County and its claim that his office "cannot independently investigate such cases."

"They offer no evidence to support their conclusion, just the subjective opinion that the (district attorney's) office is not independent," Wagstaffe said. "We have been conducting such investigations for decades, and there is no reason presented to change this policy."

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On Saturday, Jan. 7, 25-year-old Maycarla Fernando Sulapas of South San Francisco died after experiencing a "medical emergency" shortly after she was in the intake and booking area of the Maguire Correctional Facility, according to a sheriff's office news release. The coroner's office confirmed her identity. In October, correctional officers found Matthew Britton unresponsive during a safety and security check. The coroner's office pronounced him deceased, and the sheriff's office said the 34-year-old "likely died of natural causes."

Wagstaffe, addressing the investigation into Salapas' death, said his team of investigators was interviewing dozens of witnesses. One of his investigators had attended the autopsy (results still pending). His office is "doing a thorough review of Ms. Sulapas’s interaction with law enforcement, family members, and hospital personnel on the day of her death," Wagstaffe said.

"The Sheriff’s Office has been cooperative with my office but not collaborating," Wagstaffe said. "The investigation is being completed exclusively by my office."

In his statement on Tuesday, Lawrence said he urged "the sheriff's office and the (district attorney) to step aside, the public trust is broken."

"We must have a genuinely independent investigation into this matter. I believe our California Attorney General's Office needs to step up and lead this investigation," Lawrence added.

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Lawrence said Fixin' San Mateo County plans to send State Attorney General Rob Bonta a letter addressing the need for an independent investigation.

Wagstaffe said it was unlikely the attorney general would assume responsibility for an investigation into the case "without evidence or facts indicating why there is a need for them to step in."

Last year, Fixin' San Mateo County gained public support and endorsements, including from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors for an oversight system that would surveil the actions of the county sheriff. The proposal, which was presented to the board in November, also gained support from 16 current and former mayors, as well as several city councils, town councils and 23 community organizations, according to Fixin' San Mateo County's report. The board said it would pick up the topic and discuss it again with the incoming sheriff, Christina Corpus.

The sheriff's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michelle Iracheta
   
Michelle Iracheta is the editor at the Redwood City Pulse. Her work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Seattle Times and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Michelle, a Houston native, is married and has two dogs. Read more >>

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Local group pushing for sheriff oversight questions recent deaths at county jail

Fixin’ San Mateo County calls for independent review and asks for the district attorney to step down from investigating the case

by / Redwood City Pulse

Uploaded: Sun, Jan 15, 2023, 9:01 am

After two people died either while in custody or after being in the custody of correctional officers at Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City, a grassroots organization pushing to establish civilian oversight of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office is calling those deaths into question.

Fixin’ San Mateo County Board of Directors Chairperson Jim Lawrence said in a statement on Jan. 10, that there should an independent investigation into the two jail deaths. Lawrence said the organization did not believe that a review by the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, which is leading the investigation into the most recent death, would be genuinely independent.

"It is imperative that the independent review be done immediately and without any influence, direct or indirect, from the offices listed," Lawrence said in the statement, referring to the district attorney's and sheriff's offices.

San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe disagreed with Fixin' San Mateo County and its claim that his office "cannot independently investigate such cases."

"They offer no evidence to support their conclusion, just the subjective opinion that the (district attorney's) office is not independent," Wagstaffe said. "We have been conducting such investigations for decades, and there is no reason presented to change this policy."

On Saturday, Jan. 7, 25-year-old Maycarla Fernando Sulapas of South San Francisco died after experiencing a "medical emergency" shortly after she was in the intake and booking area of the Maguire Correctional Facility, according to a sheriff's office news release. The coroner's office confirmed her identity. In October, correctional officers found Matthew Britton unresponsive during a safety and security check. The coroner's office pronounced him deceased, and the sheriff's office said the 34-year-old "likely died of natural causes."

Wagstaffe, addressing the investigation into Salapas' death, said his team of investigators was interviewing dozens of witnesses. One of his investigators had attended the autopsy (results still pending). His office is "doing a thorough review of Ms. Sulapas’s interaction with law enforcement, family members, and hospital personnel on the day of her death," Wagstaffe said.

"The Sheriff’s Office has been cooperative with my office but not collaborating," Wagstaffe said. "The investigation is being completed exclusively by my office."

In his statement on Tuesday, Lawrence said he urged "the sheriff's office and the (district attorney) to step aside, the public trust is broken."

"We must have a genuinely independent investigation into this matter. I believe our California Attorney General's Office needs to step up and lead this investigation," Lawrence added.

Lawrence said Fixin' San Mateo County plans to send State Attorney General Rob Bonta a letter addressing the need for an independent investigation.

Wagstaffe said it was unlikely the attorney general would assume responsibility for an investigation into the case "without evidence or facts indicating why there is a need for them to step in."

Last year, Fixin' San Mateo County gained public support and endorsements, including from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors for an oversight system that would surveil the actions of the county sheriff. The proposal, which was presented to the board in November, also gained support from 16 current and former mayors, as well as several city councils, town councils and 23 community organizations, according to Fixin' San Mateo County's report. The board said it would pick up the topic and discuss it again with the incoming sheriff, Christina Corpus.

The sheriff's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Comments

Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Jan 15, 2023 at 4:18 pm
Thoughtful, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2023 at 4:18 pm

Here's something to consider which indicates that the San Mateo County DA's office is not independent of the Sheriff's Office.

Back in 2007, Sheriff Greg Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos were caught in a FBI raid of an underage prostitution house in Las Vegas, a.k.a. "Operation Dollhouse".

DA Wagstaffe wrote the following to Munks once the media started reporting on this travesty:

"To those who matter, your decades of outstanding work in law enforcement are all that count and your integrity is not the slightest marked by the modern media's efforts to make a story out of a non-story."

This was a hovel in which underage women were being kept against their will as sex slaves.

Is that comment really the reaction of an independent criminal prosecutor?

Come on.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jan 16, 2023 at 7:27 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jan 16, 2023 at 7:27 am

Thoughtful:

It is the comment of a corrupt DA, which is what we have.


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