General Crime

* San Francisco 31-Year-Old 300lbs Inmate Issiah Downes Dies In Custody While Being Moved

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Authorities are investigating the death on Monday of a 31-year-old San Francisco County Jail inmate with a history of psychiatric illness, a sheriff’s department spokeswoman said today. Issiah Downes, of San Francisco, was pronounced dead at about 6:30 p.m. in the county jail at 850 Bryant St., sheriff’s spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said.The incident was not a case of inmate-on-inmate violence or suicide, and there was no indication of foul play, she said.Deputies had been trying to move Downes — who stood 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 300 pounds — from the main psychiatric housing unit, where several inmates live in one room, to a smaller unit with fewer inmates, after he had become “very disruptive” verbally with other prisoners, according to Hirst.While deputies were moving him, Downes continued “to be extremely disruptive and resistive, so the decision was made to move him to a safety cell,” Hirst said.The deputies then noticed Downes was in “medical distress” and jail medical services responded, according to Hirst. “He went limp,” Hirst said.Paramedics arrived but were unable to revive him. The medical examiner’s office has planned an autopsy to determine the cause of death, according to Hirst.The sheriff’s department, the Police Department and the medical examiner’s office each conduct investigations into any in-custody death.According to police spokeswoman Sgt. Lyn Tomioka, deputies did not use pepper spray or force on Downes. He was in handcuffs at the time, which is standard during transportation of an inmate, Tomioka said.Downes was placed on the ground in the safety cell, which is also standard for an inmate who is not complying with verbal requests, and as deputies were removing the handcuffs, they noticed Downes wasn’t breathing, according to Tomioka.Downes had been on parole at the time he was arrested March 8 in San Francisco. He was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, two felony counts of resisting arrest and three misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, according to the sheriff’s department.Downes also had prior convictions in 1997 for robbery, in 1998 for assault with a deadly weapon and battery on a police officer, and in 2002 for involuntary manslaughter, for which he received a nine-year prison sentence, authorities said. He was released from prison in February 2008.While in jail after his arrest in March, Downes reportedly tried to gouge out his eyes with his own hands, and succeeded in blinding himself in one eye, authorities said.”He had a history of assaultive behavior toward other prisoners while he was in state prison,” said Hirst. “And he has a history of self-destructive acts.” Hirst said Downes had “an extensive psychiatric history,” though she did not know the specific condition with which he had been diagnosed.”We are very sorry for his death, and extend our sympathies to his family,” Hirst said. Copyright © 2009 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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