Alameda Co. DA investigating 2021 in-custody death of Oakland father at Santa Rita Jail

Anser Hassan Image
Thursday, November 9, 2023
ALCO DA investigating 2021 in-custody death at Santa Rita Jail
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Zachary Linowitz said on Nov. 15, 2021, Maurice Monk died in his jail cell. His task is to figure out why.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The family of an Oakland father, who died while in custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, is demanding answers and accountability.

"Something unusual and very disturbing happened at the Santa Rita Jail in Nov. of 2021," said Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Zachary Linowitz.

Linowitz said on Nov. 15, 2021, Maurice Monk died in his jail cell. His task is to figure out why.

"It appears that he may have been dead upwards of 72 hours before he was finally observed by deputies on Nov. 15," Linowitz said.

MORE: New CA law aims to protect inmate religious practices in prisons

Monk's family has met with D.A. office's newly formed public accountability unit, which opened this new investigation.

"I am well aware of the problems that we have faced at Santa Rita County Jail, of the number of in-custody deaths in this county, which are unacceptable," said Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Pice.

The D.A.'s office says Monk, who was in his mid 40s, was arrested in Oct. 2021 for refusing to get off a transit bus. He couldn't afford bail, so he was locked up for over a month.

The family recently won a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit. They also say Monk struggled with mental health issues and may not have been given his medication while in custody.

"His sister tried desperately to get him medication the month has was at Santa Rita Jail. And she was thwarted at every turn," said Jean Moses, with the group Interfaith Coalition for Justice In Our Jails. She went to the same church as Monk.

MORE: 7 deputies, 3 hospital employees charged with murder after inmate allegedly held down for 12 minutes

Price says her predecessor, Nancy O'Malley, opened an investigation into Monk's death, which didn't lead to any conclusive results. Linowitz says, under his investigation, the sheriff's department has now agreed to deliver the information requested -- such as police reports and jail logs -- within the next few weeks.

"I discovered a great deal of very basic investigatory materials had not yet been provided to my office," Linowitz said. "Things that could possibly be provided within 15 minutes of any diligent search."

Price says Santa Rita is the fifth largest county jail in the United States. Her office isn't saying that anything malicious happened surrounding Monk's death, but adds that even neglect won't be tolerated.

"Too many people have died in Santa Rita county jail. And it is only by holding people accountable that we believe that we will begin to get this problem under control," Price said.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live