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On August 4, 2016, Arbitrator Edwin H. Benn upheld the Lake County Sheriff’s Office terminations of Corrections Officer Rodney Holmes, Corrections Officer Robert Schlesser, Corrections Officer Lilia Cruz, and demotion of Corrections Sergeant Lance Ware, for their actions relating to the death of Eugene Gruber.
Gruber sustained a broken neck while struggling with Lake County Jail Corrections Officers, after arriving at the jail on October 31, 2011. He later died on March 3, 2012.
Following the injury of Gruber, Sheriff Mark Curran called for an independent investigation into the actions surrounding Gruber’s injury. After reviewing the findings of the investigation, Sheriff Curran and Undersheriff Ray Rose issued discipline to several correctional employees involved. The discipline issued to some of the correctional officers went to arbitration, which included the terminations and demotion.
In addition to termination, Holmes and Schlesser were criminally charged with Official Misconduct. Schlesser passed away of medical reasons before his criminal case went to trial. Holmes was found criminally not-guilty, following a bench trial.
Sheriff Mark Curran said, “We have taken many steps to prevent another tragedy like this. In addition to the discipline imposed, we’ve done a complete update of policies and operational procedures in the jail. Inmates have the right to be treated fairly and humanely while in custody the Lake County Jail and I, as your Sheriff, will stand for nothing less.”
Undersheriff Ray Rose said, “Arbitrator Benn appropriately upheld the terminations and demotion. I firmly agree with Arbitrator Benn’s statement, ‘…the fact that Holmes was found not guilty in the criminal proceedings does not automatically mean that he did not engage in misconduct in this case.’ The Lake County Sheriff’s Office will simply not tolerate excessive force or untruthful reporting from our employees.”
Since this incident, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office conducted a complete audit and rewrite of all jail policies by Undersheriff Ray Rose and Corrections Chief Dave Wathen. Additionally, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office sought outside validation of the jail’s policies and protocols, and has been accredited by the American Correctional Association as well as the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.