Three deputies were arrested this week on murder charges for beating a mentally ill man to death in a California jail. Although he had already served his five-day sentence, the victim remained in police custody for two weeks while waiting for a bed to open up at a nearby mental health hospital. Witnesses have recently come forward asserting that the deputies entered the victim’s cell and viciously beat him to death as he begged for mercy.
Held on misdemeanor drug and theft charges, Michael James Tyree, 31, was sentenced to five days at Santa Clara County Jail. While waiting to be transferred to Momentum Crisis Residential, a 24-hour adult treatment program, Tyree was kept in a wing of Santa Clara County Jail that houses inmates in protective custody or who have special needs. Instead of releasing Tyree after serving his five-day sentence, Judge Steven Manley determined it would be safer for the bipolar man with a history of mental illness to remain in jail while waiting for a bed to become available at the mental health facility.
On the evening of August 26, inmates witnessed three guards enter Tyree’s cell to conduct a routine search. Locked up directly across the hall from Tyree, Juan Perez watched deputies Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez through the bottom window of his cell. Perez and several other inmates heard the guards assaulting Tyree for roughly 20 minutes as he screamed in agony and begged for mercy.
After leaving Tyree’s cell, the deputies returned an hour later to find him unresponsive, naked, and covered in vomit and feces. The coroner’s autopsy report revealed that Tyree died of blunt force trauma and ruled his death a homicide. Tyree was reportedly beaten so aggressively that he suffered lacerations to his liver and spleen, which led to internal bleeding. When Tyree’s body was found, the deputies eventually admitted to using force to restrain him because Tyree had refused to take his medication.
Placed on unpaid leave and stripped of their administrative access, deputies Farris, Lubrin, and Rodriguez were arrested on Thursday. The deputies were held without bail and charged with murder, conspiracy, and assault under the color of authority. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith described the murder as “heinous and cowardly.”
“The disappointment and disgust I feel cannot be overstated,” stated Sheriff Smith. “His life had value.”