San Quentin prison guard first employee to die in COVID-19 outbreak

Death toll among inmates rises to 25

San Quentin State Prison Sgt. Gilbert Polanco is the first employee to die in a COVID-19 outbreak in the Marin County facility. (Courtesy CDCR)

San Quentin State Prison Sgt. Gilbert Polanco is the first employee to die in a COVID-19 outbreak in the Marin County facility. (Courtesy CDCR)

The death toll from a COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin State Prison continues to mount.

Sgt. Gilbert Polanco, a 55-year-old San Quentin State Prison guard, died Sunday morning, the first employee casualty at the Marin County facility, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Polanco had been in a San Jose hospital for more than a month.

“Sgt. Gilbert Polanco is an example of the best of CDCR and his passing deeply saddens us all. His dedication to public service will not be forgotten,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said Sunday in a statement.

Added acting San Quentin Warden Ron Broomfield, “Our hearts are broken as we awaken to the news of the passing of our beloved Sergeant, colleague, and friend. Sgt. Gilbert Polanco demonstrated unwavering commitment and bravery as a peace officer working the frontline every day during this devastating pandemic.”

Condemned inmate Pedro Arias, 58, also died Sunday at an outside hospital from what appeared to be complications related to the coronavirus, becoming the 25th inmate to die at San Quentin in the outbreak.

Arias was sentenced to death in Sacramento County in 1990 for first-degree murder and second-degree roberry while armed wth a firearm, as well as life without parole for kidnapping for ransom/extortion, penetration with a foreign object, attempted sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, sodomy of a child under 14, two counts of forcible rape, second-degree robbery and enhancements for use of a firearm.

There are currently 714 people on California’s death row, according to state officials. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions in March of 2019.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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