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Martinez resident allegedly commits suicide at local jail

Steven Payne found ‘unresponsive’ in cell; later perishes

By DAVID SCHOLZ
Martinez Tribune

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Two investigations into a death stemming from an incident at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department’s main detention center in Martinez are in their early stages.

At approximately 4 p.m. Dec. 30, 2015, jail personnel found Steven Payne, an inmate at the detention center, unresponsive in his cell.

Barry Grove, a deputy with Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, confirmed an investigation is continuing into the case, but said “it appears to be a suicide.’’

Capt. Chris Simmons of the sheriff’s Custody Services Bureau, who declined to say if Payne was found hanging in his cell, said the inmate was found “unresponsive,’’ and lifesaving measures were started by jail staff and soon after by the fire department to resuscitate the man. Simmons was unsure how long Payne had been in his cell before his situation came to the attention of staff.

Payne, who was believed to be a local Martinez resident, was transported to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. There, he ultimately succumbed to his injuries Jan. 3.

Payne, who had a previous criminal history, was being held on a robbery charge and a probation violation at the time of this stint at the jail.

Simmons said a parallel investigation, one being handled by the sheriff’s department and the other by the county District Attorney’s office, are now ongoing as investigators “get into the weeds’’ and conduct interviews to learn about Payne and his history.

Simmons said it could be “months’’ before the two probes are completed and this matter goes before a coroner’s inquest to determine a cause of death.

“We want to make sure we are doing a thorough investigation with transparency,’’ he said.

As a matter of procedure, Simmons said all people who are booked into the jail undergo a mental health screening and are asked questions that include if he or she has any thoughts of harming themselves.

This information dictates where they could be held while in custody. Simmons declined to say if any red flags came up with Payne during this screening process.

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