Inmate death arrests: Michael James Tyree Death

Published: September 5, 2015

Inmate death arrests: Michael James Tyree Death, The three guards at Santa Clara County Main Jail were only supposed to be conducting a routine search of Michael Tyree’s cell, looking for extra clothing or toiletries that inmates often try to hoard. Instead, the correctional officers did something “violent and cowardly,” Sheriff Laurie Smith said Thursday, that left the 31-year-old mentally ill man lying naked on the floor, covered in lacerations and bruises and bleeding to death internally.

During a news conference Thursday, flanked by 18 uniformed members of her command staff, Smith announced the arrest of the three correctional officers on suspicion of murder, just a week after Tyree’s severely beaten body was found in jail wing 6B.

“The disappointment and disgust I feel cannot be overstated,” she said. “His life had value.”

The murder allegations against correctional officers 28-year-old Jereh Lubrin, and 27-year-olds Matthew Farris and Rafael Rodriguez, unprecedented in the 165-year history of the Sheriff’s Office, have put the jail it runs under a harsh spotlight and drawn attention to the difficult plight and placement of the mentally ill.

Smith said she spoke privately with Tyree’s family, just hours after the arrests.

“I want to express my profound sorrow over the loss of Mr. Tyree,” Smith said, accusing her officers of losing their “moral compass.”

“This violent and cowardly act that took Mr. Tyree’s life is not indicative of the values we expect and honor with the men and women of this department.”


Rodriguez was arrested at his home in San Jose and Farris at his Campbell home, both around 5:30 a.m. Thursday. Lubrin turned himself in. They were stripped of their badges and put on unpaid leave.

Smith said the officers declined to give statements to investigators from the Sheriff’s Office, invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and requested attorneys. While the officers work under the Sheriff’s Office, they are restricted to jail duties with limited authority outside its walls, and are represented by a separate union.


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