In his jail booking photo, there’s a bright-red ligature mark around Robert Lubsen’s neck. The 26-year-old, who was arrested in 2013 after being caught stealing laptops from a Cal State San Marcos dormitory, had tried to hang himself in a campus holding cell before being transferred to the Vista jail.
Despite the visible ligature marks and a documented suicide attempt during a previous incarceration, jail staff didn’t flag Lubsen as a suicide risk. Instead, he was placed in a second-floor cell and, the following morning, shortly after cell doors were opened to give inmates access to a day room, he climbed onto a walkway railing, leaned over and fell headfirst to the floor 9 feet below. He died five days later after his family decided to remove him from life support.
His parents said he had struggled with drug addiction for several years.
Lubsen’s case was one of two suicides on the agenda for the March meeting of the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board, an independent oversight body charged with investigating deaths at county detention facilities and allegations of abuse by sheriff’s deputies and probation officers.
In both cases, despite obvious, documented warning signs that the men were at risk, the board found sheriff’s deputies weren’t at fault for not placing either man on suicide watch. In both cases, deputies appeared to base their decision not to place the men on suicide watch simply because neither man answered “yes” to the question, “Are you suicidal?”’
In Lubsen’s case, investigators found a “lack of observable indicators … to support a Safety Cell placement” — despite the ligature marks.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Truth is, law enforcement would rather see these folks dead. They are not mental health professionals. Suicidal people suck up time and resources of the public. One suicidal person can shut down an entire expressway during rush hour, inconveniencing tens of thousands of people. Not fair !