A Santa Maria man died in custody at the Main Jail early Wednesday morning, a half-hour after being booked into the facility, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Jonathan Paul Thomas, 45, reportedly died at 2:03 a.m. in a safety cell, according to spokeswoman Raquel Zick.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Zick wrote that Thomas was arrested by Santa Maria police Tuesday night on suspicion of domestic violence and false imprisonment.
He was transported south to the Main Jail near Santa Barbara. The new Northern Branch Jail near Santa Maria is not yet open.
Thomas was booked into custody at 1:32 a.m. Wednesday, with bail set at $10,000, Zick said.
“Prior to and during the booking process, Thomas made statements about suicide, was deemed a danger to himself, and was escorted to a single-occupant safety cell,” she said in a statement. “What is clear so far in the investigation is that once inside the safety cell, custody deputies removed Thomas’ clothing, he was placed face down onto the floor of the cell, his handcuffs were removed and custody deputies exited the cell.
“Minutes later, custody deputies noticed that Thomas was not moving. Custody deputies then began lifesaving measures, including CPR, and requested an emergency medical response.”
The cause of death is unknown, and an autopsy was scheduled for Thursday, she said. Further details were not available as of Wednesday night.
The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury has investigated six recent inmate deaths in custody and found certain Sheriff’s Office policies were not followed.
In its investigation of a man who killed himself in custody 18 hours after being booked, in February 2021, the Grand Jury members found that the Main Jail intake process failed to protect him.
The Grand Jury found fault with jail staff for the 2018 in-custody suicide of a Goleta man, and concluded that Sheriff’s Office staff and Wellpath staff did not follow procedures and did not recognize he was potentially suicidal.
A 2020 report investigated four recent jail deaths, and concluded that Sheriff’s Office staff did not follow procedures in three of the cases, including two suicides and a man with potentially life-threatening medical issues who, according to department policy, should never have been booked.
Click here for access to the county’s Community Wellness Team, or call 805.364.2750 to get connected to additional mental-health resources.