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Medical Examiner: Inmate who died in custody was a homicide victim

The San Diego Sheriff's Department released the cause of death Thursday of an inmate who died in police custody nearly a year ago.

Lonnie Newton Rupard was found unresponsive in his cell on March 17, 2022. The sheriff's department said deputies and medical staff performed lifesaving measures until Rupard was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office autopsy report showed Rupard's preliminary cause of death was from pneumonia, malnutrition and dehydration with a COVID-19 viral infection, pulmonary emphysema and duodenal ulcer as contributing factors.


The Medical Examiner's Office determined Rupard's death was a homicide, according to the sheriff's department.

"The medical examiner is not going to list something as a homicide if she’s not convinced that it is, hands down," said Paul Parker, executive officer of the county’s Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board, which investigates deaths in connection with the actions of deputies and probation officers.

Rupard was one of nearly two dozen inmates who died in custody of the Sheriff's Department last year. Parker said he has been requesting access to review the medical care records for over a year now.

"If we had jurisdiction over the medical care providers, we would get the full picture of the deaths that are occurring," Parker said.

San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez said she is grateful to the Medical Examiner's office for their work and respects their findings. "I am committed to compassionate care for everyone in our custody and we can do better and we are doing better now," she said.


The Sheriff's Internal Affairs Unit is investigating the circumstances surrounding Rupard's death to determine if there were any violations of department policy or procedure, according to the department.

The Sheriff's Homicide Unit was also investigating the incident and will submit its findings to the District Attorney's Office for review. It will also provide the findings to the U.S. Attorney's Office for review by its Civil Rights Unit regarding any potential violations related to the death, according to the department.

  • The San Diego County Medical Examiner has ruled that the death of a jail inmate last year was a homicide. In other news, the city of San Diego announced this week that it’s closing Golden Hall as a homeless shelter. Plus, local researchers say the sewage polluting the ocean off South County beaches is also polluting the air.
  • A study from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography shows that Tijuana sewage isn’t just ending up in our water - it’s finding its way into the air we breathe. The study, conducted in 2019, found that air samples collected in Imperial Beach contained the same bacteria present in contaminated ocean water. Then, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been studying the effects of psychedelic drugs in treating PTSD, but government regulation and concerns over recreational drug use may stand in the way of better understanding the treatment method. Finally, San Diego Opera announced this week the sad news that a beloved colleague and ambassador for the opera, Nicolas Reveles died of pancreatic cancer. We remember Reveles and talk about his newest work, “Ghosts,” which will have its world premiere at San Diego Opera in April.

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