DUBLIN (CBS SF) — A 56-year-old inmate at the behavioral health housing unit at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail in Dublin was killed Tuesday and his 73-year-old cellmate is the suspected perpetrator, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
Deputies at the jail, which is the sixth-largest jail in the country and currently houses 2,129 inmates, found the victim in his cell at Housing Unit 9 at about 8:50 a.m. after other inmates told them that they heard a noise and the man was lying on the floor, Sgt. Ray Kelly said.
The deputies who spotted the victim “discovered a grisly scene” and the victim was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Kelly.
The victim’s cellmate, who was covered in blood, tried to flee but deputies were able to tackle him and detain him after a brief struggle, Kelly said.
The suspect, who was arrested in Hayward last Thursday on battery and threat charges, is currently being held in an isolation cell away from the rest of the jail population while prosecutors in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office determine if he’s mentally competent enough to be interviewed about the incident, according to Kelly.
The victim was from Union City and was arrested there last January on an assault with a deadly weapon charge, Kelly said. The man was scheduled to be taken to the Napa State Hospital soon for a mental health evaluation, he said.
His name wasn’t released, pending notification of his family.
The victim and the suspect are both Asian males who have mental health issues and authorities don’t believe the killing was racially motivated or gang-related, Kelly said.
It appears that no weapons were used and authorities believe the victim was either strangled or beaten to death, he said.
The crime scene is contained but jail officials have placed the 291 inmates in the behavioral health unit on lockdown for now as a precautionary measure, according to Kelly.
The victim and the suspect are both well-known to the jail system and the mental health system but there were no indications that they couldn’t be placed together and they’d only been in the same cell for a few days, Kelly said.
When inmates are taken to the jail there’s “a stringent process” for evaluating where they should be housed and whether they can be placed with another inmate, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that this happened but the system we have is very reliable,” Kelly said.
There only have been five inmate homicides since the jail opened in 1989 and the death today is the first homicide since 2008, according to Kelly. The other homicides occurred in 1997, 2002 and 2003.
Most of the other inmate homicides also involved inmates with mental health issues, Kelly said.
There are surveillance cameras at the jail but not in cells because of privacy issues so there isn’t any video of the homicide, Kelly said.
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