The family of the Atascadero man who died in San Luis Obispo County Jail after being strapped in a restraint chair for more than 46 hours has contributed $25,000 to the challenger in the county sheriff race and another $25,000 to the candidate attempting to unseat the county’s district attorney.
Andrew Holland, a mentally ill man, died in January 2017 at the age of 36 after jail guards left him strapped in the restraint chair, also known as the “Devil’s Chair.” Last July, the SLO County Board of Supervisors settled with Holland’s family for $5 million.
SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson allegedly gave approval for use of the restraint chair while practicing for at a fashion show. Sources at the jail say medical staff questioned keeping Holland restrained in the chair, but sheriff’s office staff decided to do so anyway.
Following Holland’s death, the FBI opened an investigation into the deaths — now 12 — that have occurred at SLO County Jail since 2012. Officials from the county district attorney’s office said they were not investigating the deaths because of the ongoing FBI investigation.
Hollands’ family has said neither Parkinson, nor District Attorney Dan Dow, are performing their jobs properly and that the two law enforcement officials maintain a close relationship with one another. The family recently decided to support retired police officer Greg Clayton, who is running for sheriff against Parkinson, and retired judge Mike Cummins, who is challenging Dow.
Clayton, who is a longtime private investigator in addition to being a retired SLOPD officer, is running on a campaign of justice and reform based on allegations of mistreatment of inmates under Parkinson’s watch. Over the past five years, SLO County’s jail deaths have been approximately three times the national average, and during that span, the sheriff’s office failed to abide by state regulations regarding the treatment of mentally ill inmates.
Cummins served as a deputy district attorney in Stanislaus County for four and a half years before he was appointed to the bench in 1994. After more than 10 years as a judge, Cummins retired and returned to San Luis Obispo County to spend time with his aging parents.
The former prosecutor and judge has said the District Attorney should have launched a concurrent investigation into possible state law violations. The FBI investigation is focused on alleged civil rights abuses.
Both the sheriff and district attorney elections will take place in June.