The FBI is investigating allegations that San Francisco sheriff's deputies arranged and gambled on fights between jail inmates and told the inmates to lie if they needed medical attention.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced the independent probe Friday, and a representative from the FBI confirmed the investigation in an email to The Associated Press. The department's internal affairs unit and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating as well.
The news of the forced fights came to light in late March, when Public Defender Jeff Adachi said four deputies at the County Jail threatened inmates with violence if they did not fight each other.
"I am pleased the feds have granted my request. They can lead an impartial investigation without conflict of interests," Mirkarimi said. "Call it a pre-emptive strike or call it preventative medicine, but my request to the U.S. Department of Justice underscores my determination to not allow any person or clique to deter or derail our reforms toward greater transparency and accountability in and outside the jails."
Meanwhile, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said he received the report from Adachi and his department will be investigating to see if there is any criminal wrongdoing. District Attorney George Gascón called the allegations deplorable.
The investigation should be concluded in about two weeks, Mirkarimi said.
Also Friday, Mirkarimi announced a $5 million arrest warrant for the capture of inmate Alexander Santiago-Gonzales, who escaped County Jail custody on March 23 while a deputy was escorting him to take out the trash. Santiago-Gonzales had been federally indicted as a narcotics trafficker and was facing lengthy prison time when he fled.
The deputy has been placed on leave, and termination proceedings have started, the sheriff said.
"It appears that previously instituted security protocols were ignored and that directly contributed to the escape," Mirkarimi said. He did not elaborate.
Now, all inmates, regardless of their classification, are now restricted from outside areas, Mirkarami said.
The sheriff's department is working with the U.S. Marshals Service to capture Santiago-Gonzalez.
Associated Press videographer Haven Daley contributed to this report.