Justice for Tamario Smith

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Santa Cruz Sentinel-Tamario Smith

Updated Police Report


On May 10 2020, a young man was found unresponsive in his Santa Cruz County jail cell. Although correctional officers attempted to perform ‘life-saving measures’, Paramedics were called to the scene and pronounced his death at around 6 P.M. that evening.

At just 21 years old, Tamario Smith is commemorated by his family and community who all know that this young man had the potential to fulfill a successful and bright future. He moved to Santa Cruz in the early 2000’s with his family, where many of us got to know him through his attendance of Live Oak Elementary and Shoreline Middle School. Eventually, the community witnessed him graduate from Louden Nelson High School and grow as a profound member of the World of Life Church. Tamario leaves behind his parents, grandmother, six brothers, and six sisters all of whom loved him deeply and were rooting for the success of his future.

His family, friends, and community members demand answers as Santa Cruz County Main jail has failed to uphold the truth or abide by justice. After weeks of reporting his death as simply an ‘accident’, an official autopsy was released just as demonstrators were preparing to march through downtown Santa Cruz on behalf of Tamario. The Sheriff’s Office stated: “Our forensic pathologist determined Mr. Smith’s cause of death to be acute water intoxication, due to the over consumption of water in a short period of time. The over consumption of water was influenced by Mr. Smith’s underlying mental health issues. This water consumption led to an electrolyte imbalance, which caused Mr. Smith’s organs to fail, leading to Mr. Smith’s death.” Both the autopsy and Sheriff Office insist there were no signs of trauma, ingestion of toxic substances, or foul play and that it was all an accident. 

Since 2012, at least six other people have died under the lacking supervision of Santa Cruz County Jail. Sheriff Jim Hart and his office have received an uproar of scrutiny over the poor medical services, lackluster inspection procedures, and numbers of deaths in the county jail. “Consecutive Santa Cruz County Grand Jury reports about the jail in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 all called for improvements.” These reports unveil the treacherous behavior of the jails medical provider, California Forensic Medical Group; however, the SC County Board of Supervisors continues to extend their contract with the group despite the list of deaths that have occurred within the county jail throughout the decade. 

The Smith family deserves Justice and the Truth. They deserve answers beyond an ‘accident’ and the peace of mind knowing that another life will not be taken at the hands of officers and institutions meant to uphold the law and maintain safety among the public. The Smith family is asking for support to shed a light over Tamario’s story, to demand change in a county that has failed it’s community time and time again with absolutely no repercussions. The Santa Cruz County Jail system MUST change, along with the Sheriff’s Office, Police Department and Medical groups who all failed to protect Tamario Smith until the day of his trial, a constitutional right for ALL human beings.