Butte County jail guards found 53-year-old Rick Vermace unconscious inside the sober tank an hour after he was booked Thursday.
Investigators said Vermace was under the influence of a controlled substance when they brought him in and can only speculate how he died. Foul play has been ruled out.
“This is a very serious, very concerning, alarming situation,” said Lieutenant Al Smith of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.
Guards found him lying on the floor of a cell, unresponsive, and not breathing just before 6:30 p.m.
“He wasn't showing any effects when they did the checks until they found him unresponsive,” said Smith.
Medical staff rushed in and performed CPR on Vermace for several minutes, but it wasn't enough to save him. Vermace was pronounced dead just after 7:00 p.m.
“It's possible that it could be an overdose,” added Smith. “It is also a possibility that is some type of natural condition. I think the autopsy will give us some answers.”
Oroville police officers arrested Vermace off Myers Street in a shopping center near Corto Street in Oroville around 5:20 p.m. Employees at Robert’s Drug store called 911 saying he was frightening customers.
“There was some kind of disturbance that he was making,” said Smith.
Deputies said the nurse on staff at the jail examined Vermace's vital signs when he was booked.
“I guess it would be standard intake, getting checked out in a hospital; similar types of things,” said Smith.
An autopsy is scheduled for next week which will hopefully shed more light onto how Vermace lost his life. The results are expected in about three to four weeks.