The Cover Up


A Timeline

Following this horrific death while in custody at the San Luis Obispo County jail, Andrew’s parents settled a potential lawsuit for $5 million dollars and extensive promises from the County to meaningfully address the abhorrent state of the jail and the treatment of the mentally ill. Carty and Sharon Holland tried to help and support the County in facing the realities of its massively broken criminal justice system. But ultimately, the County’s elected officials could not be honest about what happened. Without transparency and accountability, there would never be any meaningful reform of the County’s deadly jail.

After Andrew’s death, the Holland family watched the Sheriff’s Office investigate and clear itself of any wrongdoing through the vehicle of the Sheriff-controlled Coroner’s Office.  Then, the District Attorney refused to investigate this blatantly criminal conduct. Finally, in a blatant attempt to provide political cover for the Sheriff, the county Board of Supervisors promised to pass “reforms,” which amounted to either empty gestures or responses utterly disproportionate and disconnected to gravity and nature of the problem.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson has engaged in a cover up and public deception of what occurred to Andrew Holland and in the aftermath of his death. Sheriff Parkinson has been assisted in this cover up by a compromised medical examiner and Coroner’s Office under his control and by his political pals, District Attorney Dan Dow and the majority of the SLO County Board of Supervisors.

Sequence of Events

1/23On the day following Andrew’s death, Sheriff Parkinson ordered his staff to collect information on the Psychiatric Health Facility’s record of transferring inmates found incompetent to stand trial, setting up the excuse that somehow County Mental Health is responsible for Andrew’s death in his county jail.
1/23That same day, January 23, 2017, the Sheriff’s Office issued a press release filled with blatant deceptions about Andrew’s death. The press release stated that Andrew was “found unconscious and unresponsive in a glass observation cell . . . . At the time of his death, Holland was under the care of a physician . . . . When he did not respond on a check, staff entered his cell and determined he was unconscious. Custody staff and Jail medical staff immediately provided emergency lifesaving attention . . . . 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.” A review of surveillance footage shows that the Sheriff’s press release is false. The facts are as follows:  He was not found unconscious, nor did he fail to respond to a “check.”  In reality, jail staff watched Andrew die in agony and made no attempt to assist him until after he was dead. That “glass observation cell” is just in fact the “drunk tank.” Andrew received no care from a physician. He was denied any kind of meaningful medical treatment and was punished until the punishment killed him.

3/2On March 2, 2017, Tavener Holland, the Holland Family attorney and Andrew’s cousin, met with Sheriff Parkinson for four hours at the Sheriff’s request at his office. The Sheriff admitted to Tavener that he had personally approved Andrew’s placement in the restraint chair on the evening Andrew was strapped in, even going so far as to detail exactly where he was when he received the call—at a rehearsal for the Women’s Shelter Benefit which the Sheriff was slated to perform in and model clothes. Sheriff Parkinson acknowledged that at all times he could have had Andrew released and that he was fully aware of the indefensible length of time Andrew was restrained.

The Sheriff stated that an unidentified doctor at the County had advised him to keep Andrew restrained and since he “didn’t want to get sued,” he followed the mysterious unnamed doctor’s advice.

Most troubling, when asked directly why Andrew had not been let up to use the restroom, the Sheriff passionately described Andrew as being so combative and aggressive with jail staff when they tied to release an arm or a leg that they had no choice but to keep him restrained. The Sheriff stated affirmatively and more than once that all relevant policies and procedures were followed in Andrew’s treatment. The Sheriff promised total transparency and specifically asked Tavener to hold him personally responsible if he found anything improper. Now Sheriff Parkinson refuses to answer any questions about his March 2nd meeting with Tavener.

4/10On April 10, 2017, a redacted copy of the Coroner’s Report was released to the press, with the incredible finding that Andrew had died of “natural causes.” The Coroner’s report falsely cited the manufacturer’s instructions of a restraint chair that was entirely different than the one used on Andrew to make it seem as though jail staff followed the instructions.
4/13On April 13, 2017, after yet another inmate died of neglect and indifference while in custody, Sheriff Parkinson held a press conference where he stated that the autopsy for this inmate would be performed by the Santa Cruz County Coroner in order to be completely transparent. The Sheriff failed to mention that his own severely compromised contract medical examiner had license revocation charges filed against him by the California Medical Board on April 10, 2017.
4/13On this same day, Sheriff Parkinson also “invites” the FBI to look into any jail deaths that they see fit. Parkinson failed to mention that the FBI had already begun investigating the Sheriff and his jail.
7/27On July 27, 2017, Holland Family announces $5 million settlement with County and County’s stated commitment to fixing the jail. County retreats and states that no laws or policies were broken and that Andrew’s death is unfortunate outcome of “systemic” failures and other statewide trends. Because the County backslid on its promised cooperation and transparency, attorney Paula Canny publicly calls for news agencies to put in public record requests for the jail surveillance video.
8/6On August 6, 2017, the County refuses to release the jail video to multiple local and national news outlets in response to Public Record Act Requests.
8/6Meanwhile, County District Attorney Dan Dow indicated that he is not investigating Andrew’s death because 1) he was not “invited” to investigate and 2) it’s unnecessary when the FBI is already investigating.
8/6It took 7 months and increasing public uproar for the Board of Supervisors to address the matter in any way. When they finally did, they provided Sheriff Parkinson a platform to exonerate himself. He brought the entire Sheriff’s department, dispatchers and all, in uniform, some on duty, to pack the Board chambers. He also brought attorneys and other public figures to speak on his behalf. How could the Board possibly meaningfully address these issues if the meeting was a vehicle for the Sheriff to show off his support? The Sheriff stated at this meeting (August 22, 2017) that Tavener Holland misunderstood him in the March 2nd meeting and that he put a policy in place where he had to be notified if/when an inmate was placed in a restraint device in response to Andrew’s death, a much different story than he told in the March 2, 2017 meeting.
11/27On November 27, 2017, County Public Health Director Jeff Hamm retired under pressure in an attempt to take the heat off Sheriff Parkinson.
11/27Once the election season arrived, Parkinson’s surrogates and soldiers began advancing the narrative that Andrew Holland died because of the actions of County Mental Health, not his custodial staff. Parkinson still refuses to answer any questions regarding the death of Andrew or his actions thereafter, except in carefully controlled media events.