Guard at California’s San Quentin prison dies of coronavirus

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (AP) — A veteran guard at San Quentin State Prison has died as a result of the coronavirus, marking the first COVID-19 death of an employee at the California lockup where a large outbreak has infected staff and inmates, corrections officials said.

Sgt. Gilbert Polanco, an Army veteran and guard at San Quentin since 1988, died after being hospitalized for more than a month, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

“Our hearts are broken as we awaken to the news of the passing of our beloved Sergeant, colleague, and friend,” Acting San Quentin Warden Ron Broomfield said in a statement Sunday. “Sgt. Gilbert Polanco demonstrated unwavering commitment and bravery as a peace officer working the frontline every day during this devastating pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom offered condolences.

“We are grateful for his many years of loyal service to the people of California, and his dedication to keeping our communities safe,” he said in a statement.

Of more than 260 staff members infected by the virus at San Quentin, Polanco is the first to die. He’s the 9th corrections employee to die of the virus statewide.

Also Sunday corrections officials announced the death of San Quentin inmate Pedro Arias, 58, from “what appears to be complications related to COVID-19.” Officials said in a statement that a coroner will determine the exact cause.

At least two dozen inmates at the prison near San Francisco have died from COVID-19 complications.

Arias was sentenced to death in Sacramento County on Feb. 22, 1990, for first-degree murder and second-degree robbery, officials said.