Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photoWhen a prisoner dies in custody

Three in-custody death cases this year in SF remain in the dark

Three people have died this year while in police or sheriff's custody — two of them in recent months.

Forty-four-year-old Brette Robinson died Aug. 23 in one of The City's smaller jail facilities that holds both female and male prisoners.

On Oct. 3 Antolin Marenco, 40, died at the 850 Bryant St. facility, the county's main jail in San Francisco.

Beyond those paltry details, little has been made public in either case about what happened to the two men. As both incidents remain under investigation, the Police and Sheriff's departments will not release many details, and the Medical Examiner's Office has yet to complete its report.

Whether the inmates died of natural causes, at their own hands or to violence is unknown.

The only specifics regarding the two jail deaths come from a one-page form required by the state.

The state Department of Justice requires the agency holding the deceased to fill out a few simple details: the name of the dead, their date of birth, and the location and date of their death. Beyond the inmate's custody status, little more information is given.

In all such cases, according to the Sheriff's Department, three parallel investigations are initiated. Internal affairs units, the police Homicide Division and the District Attorney's Office all investigate the incident independent of one anther.

The Police Department also conducts multiple independent investigations in such cases. Each incident is additionally reviewed by the department's In-Custody Review Board, which reports to the Police Commission. The commission is set to hear details of the third, unidentified jail death Wednesday in closed session.

According to the Public Defender's Office, Robinson, who was arrested for obstructing an officer and/or resisting arrest May 27 at 1880 Jackson St., was awaiting trial.

Marenco was arrested Feb. 20, 2013, at 353 Bayshore Blvd. for a probation violation. He had already been sentenced.

Along with a third person who died in police custody, Robinson and Marenco are the only people who died in such circumstances in San Francisco this year, at least where the two law enforcement agencies are concerned.

Last year, only one person died in jail custody. Similar statistics for the Police Department could not be obtained Friday.

But state data seems to indicate that such deaths are unusual.

The latest numbers from 2012 on county jail deaths statewide showed that there were 958 deaths in jails in 2012. In all, 81 percent of jails reported no deaths that year.

Of the 538 jurisdictions that reported deaths, 373 had only a single death. Suicide was a leading cause of death in county jails that year. Still, illness-related deaths accounted for more than half of jail deaths.

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