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Man dies while being held at Riverside County Jail; The sheriff says no crime has been committed

A man from Cathedral City died early Tuesday morning at Riverside County Jail in Indio, the sheriff’s department reported.

Steven Crawford, 70, was found unconscious in his cell at the John Benoit Detention Center around 12:30 a.m., according to a press release from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which operates the county’s five jails.

First responders provided emergency medical care, but Crawford was pronounced dead, the release says.

The sheriff’s department said there were no signs of foul play in connection with Crawford’s death, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

Crawford’s is the sixth reported death this year at a county jail. Sheriff Chad Bianco’s department is reeling from a record 19 reported deaths for 2022, the highest number in any year for which data is publicly available, dating back to 2005. The Desert Sun reported during the peak that the department had left behind several deaths to the California Department of Justice within the time required by law. And when it did, the department reported false information. The department has not issued a public explanation for the missing or false reports.

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The Justice Department later confirmed to The Desert Sun that the department corrected the reports after investigating the newspaper. California Attorney General Rob Bonta subsequently announced a civil rights investigation from the sheriff’s department, one of the few law enforcement investigations in the state. The investigation, which opened in February, focuses on deaths in custody, both in prisons and due to police use of force, and other concerns raised by the government agency about possible violations of the civil rights of residents of the province.

The deaths have also sparked a wave of lawsuits against the county and sheriff’s department, as about half a dozen civil lawsuits have been filed, with more on the way this year. Lawyers Denisse Gastélum and Christian Contreras have filed four federal lawsuits on behalf of family members of the deceased since the beginning of the year. All the lawsuits allege that the deaths could have been prevented through adequate training and compliance with laws that ensure a person’s right to safety while in government detention.

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The Attorney General’s investigation is still ongoing.

Christopher Damien covers public safety and the criminal justice system. He can be reached at ch[email protected] or follow him at @chris_a_damien.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Inmate Dies at Riversde County Jail in Indio; no malicious intent suspected

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