Andrew Holland, a mentally ill inmate in the San Luis Obispo County jail, died after being restrained in a chair while deputies watched and, at some points in video footage, were seen laughing, according to a report by the San Luis Obispo Tribune. The 2017 death has sparked renewed concern – and protests – after the newspaper obtained a graphic video showing Holland in restraints.
You can see the video and photos from it below, but be forewarned that they are graphic and disturbing. According to the coroner, the cause of Holland’s death was an “intrapulmonary embolism,” commonly known as a blood clot. Such clots can be caused by “prolonged sitting,” however. Holland’s family members – who remembered him for his compassion as well as his struggles – received $5 million in a settlement from the county and have maintained that their son was mistreated.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Holland Was Restrained Naked in a Chair for 46 Hours & Died Shortly After Being Untied
The video, which you can watch in part above, appears to show Holland, a schizophrenic, “harming himself. He’s then restrained naked in a chair for 46 hours before being let out and moved to another cell,” reported KSBY-TV. “Within minutes of being untied, Holland appears to lose consciousness and dies.”
You can see a longer version of the video here. The San Luis Obispo Tribune broke the story. The story, by reporter Matt Fountain, reported, “After releasing an inmate who’d been bound naked in a restraint chair for 46 hours, sheriff’s deputies at the San Luis Obispo County Jail watched as the man writhed on the floor, lost consciousness and later died.”
Fountain reported that the video contradicts the official account of the January 2017 death. The Tribune reviewed 100 hours of surveillance video footage from the jail for its report. It discovered that Holland was pronounced dead “roughly one hour after he was released following nearly two full days strapped to a plastic restraint chair.” You can read Fountain’s exclusive report in full here.
Fountain reported that deputies were seen watching “as Holland writhes on the floor, struggles to breathe and loses consciousness” and were even seen laughing in the video footage.
2. Holland Was in Jail for a Violent Crime & the Mental Health Department Refused to Take Him, Authorities Say
As questions swirl about the treatment of Holland, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department released a lengthy statement providing additional details. You can read it here:
Human life is precious. Jail regulations are intended to protect both inmates and staff from harm and injury. The Andrew Holland case was no exception.
As a matter of record, on January 20, 2017 (a Friday), Andrew Holland was serving a 2-year sentence at the County Jail for a crime of violence. Mr. Holland had a long history of violence and mental illness. He had voluntarily stopped taking his medication. Medical and jail staff observed Holland repeatedly striking himself with his fists and had bloodied his face.
The Sheriff’s Office contacted County Mental Health multiple times requesting that Mr. Holland be transferred to the Mental Health facility for treatment. The Mental Health Department refused to accept him, claiming that they were at ‘capacity.’ It was later determined that their claim was untrue and Mental Health could have taken custody of Mr. Holland for treatment. Two doctors, one from Mental Health and one from Public Health, conferred about the Holland case on that Friday night and refused to have him transferred to the Mental Health facility for treatment. They also failed to adopt a plan to involuntarily sedate the inmate.
The Sheriff’s Office had no alternative other than to place Mr. Holland in restraints.Use of restraints is strictly regulated by a six-page set of rules about every aspect of this process. Citizens of our County and especially all inmates have every right to expect that the Sheriff’s Office will follow these rules whenever restraints are used. The Sheriff’s Office followed these rules at all times during this incident. In accordance with the rules, the entire process was videotaped and careful logs were kept concerning every step in the process. Any claims that the rules about use of restraints were not followed by the Sheriff’s Office, are completely false.
While Mr. Holland was restrained, the Sheriff’s Office asked Mental Health for authorization to forcibly medicate the inmate so that he could be removed from the restraint chair. The Sheriff’s Office does not have the legal authority to involuntarily sedate an inmate.The Mental Health Department refused to classify this situation as “an emergency” which would have permitted involuntary sedation. This decision was a failure of the mental health system.
The large legal settlement against the County with the Holland family came from the medical malpractice insurance of County Mental Health; it was not based on any wrong-doing of the Sheriff’s Office.
For several years before this incident the Sheriff’s Office had requested that the County provide authority to allow mental health staff at the County Jail to involuntarily medicate violent inmates. Following this incident, the Sheriff’s Office requested, and the County approved, the hiring of a Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to serve exclusively at the County Jail; which finally gives the Sheriff’s Office CMO authority to sedate violent inmates.
The Sheriff’s Office and the County have been and will remain focused on effecting positive change on mental health issues in our community.
There were other systemic failures. At one point before his death, a judge “ordered the sheriff’s department to transfer Holland to Atascadero State Hospital (ASH). He was not transferred,” Cal Coast News.com. The restraint chair was called “The Devil’s Chair,” according to the news site.
3. Holland’s Mother Says Seeing the Video Was ‘Watching My Son Die’
Holland’s mother has spoken to the news media about the horrific video. Sharon Holland told KSBY, “It isn’t believable unless you see it and when you see it, at least for me, and I was watching my son die, I couldn’t help but feel such terrible pain for the people doing it. Who does that?”
Sharon Holland also granted an interview for a lengthy interview on the death that ran in Cal Coast News.com. “I do feel like my son Andrew didn’t just die at the county jail, he was killed,” she said. “He was not the first person with mental illness whose life has been taken there, and if something doesn’t change, he will not be the last.”
The family received a $5 million settlement from the county previously, and they said they wanted to use the money to get better treatment for the mentally ill in jails. In July 2017, the family called for Sheriff Ian Parkinson to resign. In the wake of the video’s release, protests have erupted with calls for the sheriff’s resignation reigniting.
His cousin spoke at a recent protest against the treatment of Holland. “Thank you for standing up; thank you for coming out,” she said.
4. News Outlets Battled for Access to the Video for Months
The San Luis Obispo Tribune first obtained and released the video. Various news outlets had tried to do so for months to no avail. Last July, KSBY “filed a public records request for the video but was denied,” the station reported.
The video’s release has generated a lot of criticism of authorities. People expressed outrage on social media.
The initial press release on Holland’s death said that, on January 22, 2017, “an inmate was found unconscious and unresponsive in a glass observation cell at the County Jail. The inmate is identified as 36-year-old Andrew Chaylon Holland of Atascadero. At the time of his death, Holland was under the care of a physician.”
Holland had been in custody since 9-30-15 “and was arrested and booked by San Luis Obispo Police and charged with resisting arrest with force, battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, battery and a probation violation,” the initial release said. “Holland was housed in a glass observation cell in the jail due to the fact he had been striking and inflicting injury upon himself. Holland had been under observation and was monitored and checked approximately every 15 minutes.”
When he did not respond on a check, the release said, “staff entered his cell and determined he was unconscious. Custody staff and Jail medical staff immediately provided emergency lifesaving attention, including the use of an automatic electronic defibrillator (AED), however staff was unable to revive him. Holland had been under the continual care of a physician and his cause of death is not immediately known. There were no outward signs of trauma on Holland’s body. No foul play is suspected…Last year, San Luis Obispo County recorded one jail death, the result of a suicide.”
5. Holland’s Obituary Describes Him as ‘This Most Courageous, Compassionate, Entertaining & Greatly Loved Son’
Holland’s obituary colorfully and emotionally describes both his life and his death. “Having been the subject of many dreary, depressing tales and texts from family and friends for the last nineteen years, Andrew Holland is finally happy to say that from now on, the news is only good,” it reads.
“In one fell swoop, this most courageous, compassionate, entertaining and greatly loved son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson and friend has managed to beat schizophrenia, drug abuse, alcoholism, and skip out on almost a year left of his two year jail term in isolation for acting like a miscreant while off his meds (again).”
The obituary continues, “On Sunday, January 22, 2017, God must have decided Andrew had been kept from Him, his loving arms, and the mind-blowing surf in heaven, long enough. No looking back great soul, it’s time to live. Andrew’s mom and dad, Sharon and Carty Holland, his brothers and sisters, Corban and Ann, Tyler and Darlene, and Elena and Fredy, along with the rest of his humongous and unruly family would like to invite anyone wishing to Celebrate his Life on February 18, 2017; It will take place at 10:30 am at Agape Church in San Luis Obispo, off O’Conner Way. We will have a BBQ at the church following. Please come ready to share—and rejoice.”