Contra Costa DA will not cost deputies for 2018 in-custody dying

Photo by Annie Vainshtein

July 28, 2021Updated July 28, 2021 12:01 p.m.

Prosecutor Diana Becton (right) talks to Scott Alonso (left), Public Information Officer for the Prosecutor’s Office. Becton said her office would not indict two sheriff’s deputies who were involved in a 2018 death of a man in Oakley custody, and said they did not use violence during the incident.

Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle

Two Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies, who were involved in the 2018 death of an Oakley man in custody, will not be charged with any crime, District Attorney Diane Becton’s office said Wednesday.

On October 30, 2018, 34-year-old Michael Hernandez ran naked outside his house with his three-month-old daughter and was seen gagging the child with his fingers to “remove the devil from inside” for allegedly believing she was obsessed, said the prosecutor.

The child’s mother stabbed Hernandez with a kitchen knife several times when he threatened to kill her daughter, witnesses said.

The child was reportedly turned over to a neighbor, but Hernandez began to strangle the child’s mother. Several witnesses held Hernandez before Deputy Erik Vawter arrived at the scene and reportedly handcuffed Hernandez. Deputy Brian McDevitt came up shortly afterwards and noticed that Hernandez was foaming at the mouth and had no pulse.

According to the report, the sheriff’s deputies removed the handcuffs and provided emergency medical assistance. During their investigation, prosecutors found that MPs did not use physical force against Hernandez and were not responsible for his death.

The toxicological report found that Hernandez died of acute cocaine poisoning.

Annie Vainshtein is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @annievain

Annie is a reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle. She was previously a digital producer for The Chronicle’s Datebook section. She graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with a degree in journalism in 2017. During her time there, she led a culture column, produced radio tracks for the NPR subsidiary station KCBX and was a DJ and writer for KCPR, the campus radio station. Prior to joining Chronicle, she was an Associate Producer at SFGATE and an intern at VICE and Flood Magazine. She is particularly interested in communities and scenes that are often misunderstood.

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