KTVU Fox 2 / Lisa Fernandez

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. – The family of a prison officer filed a civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday saying their loved one suffered a wrongful death because of the dangerous conditions at San Quentin caused by the correctional system’s “intentional and deliberately indifferent” decisions regarding the coronavirus.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, came slightly more than a year after death of Sgt. Gilbert Polanco of San Jose, who died Aug. 9, 2020. His widow, Patricia, and children, Vincent and Selena Polanco, are being represented by the Oakland firm of Julia Sherwin and Michael Haddad.

The 55-year-old Polanco, who was also was a U.S. Army veteran, was the first employee to die from the virus at San Quentin. Polanco also suffered from diabetes and hypertension.

“I just want them to be accountable and take responsibility for his death,” Patricia Polanco said during a Zoom news conference. “This should have never happened.”

Added Sherwin: “Officials created a COVID cesspool and then required their inmates and employees to marinate in it…It’s shocking and appalling that CDCR would risk not only the inmates’ lives, but also all of their staff’s lives with these completely reckless decisions.”

Polanco’s son, Vincent, told KTVU shortly after his death that his father was his best friend.



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