San Bernardino, CA
Being placed in county jail should not be a precursor to death; yet, inmates continue to die while in custody at San Bernardino County’s West Valley Detention Center. In 2016, at least ten inmates died while in custody at the facility.
The bad luck experienced by too many inmates assigned to the West Valley Detention Center (West Valley) continued in recent weeks. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department issued two separate press releases announcing more inmate deaths at West Valley in late February.
On Tuesday, February 21, at 9:20 p.m., deputies reported they found inmate Kevin Plichta unresponsive in his cell. According to the sheriff’s department, medical staff responded immediately and Plichta was transported to Kaiser Hospital in extremely critical condition. Due to the nature of his injuries, investigators were called upon to investigate.
Investigators determined that Plichta and his cellmate, Marcos Garcia, were both in the cell when Plichta’s injuries occurred. As a result, investigators believe Garcia was responsible for the injuries sustained by Plichta. Their completed investigation was forwarded to the District Attorney for review and probable filing of murder charges.
Just four days later, on February 25, another inmate was found dead. Sheriff Department officials reported that at approximately 12:25 p.m. that day, a deputy at the jail was conducting observation logs when he saw inmate David Damits hanging from the top bunk. In a press statement, it was reported the deputy immediately cut the inmate down and began CPR until medical staff took over. Despite the deputy’s efforts, Damits was pronounced dead at the scene. The report also stated that Damits was housed alone in a single-man cell.
Regardless of what Plichta and Damits did or did not do that led to their confinement at West Valley, they were under the care and supervision of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department that failed to keep them safe.