Jaxon Sales Death Must Be Investigated By San Francisco Police SFPD and Chief Medical Examiner
San Francisco – February 8, 2022- Over 41,000 people have signed a change.org petition demanding that the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and the San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (SF OCME) investigate the death of Jaxon Sales. On March 2, 2020, Angie and Jim Sales were informed that their 20-year-old son was found naked and dead in the apartment of a 41-year-old man in San Francisco.
Upon arrival, after speaking only to the resident of the apartment, SFPD deemed the death as an accidental overdose. Based on this sole testimony, police allegedly did not question other guests in the apartment from the night before, nor any neighbors or other potential witnesses. The 41-year-old resident allegedly showered and cleaned the apartment before he called 911 and before SFPD arrived. He was never named as a suspect or a person of interest.
The medical examiner reported that there were toxic levels of Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB) in Jaxon’s system; GHB is commonly known as the date rape drug.
The family reported that the Assistant Medical Examiner justified the lack of investigation by saying that “the gay community uses GHB.” Medical examiner reports also indicate that there were illegal drugs found in the closet (which may or may not have been taken as evidence). A family member was also told by the OCME that there was a non-lethal drug overdose in the same resident’s apartment from the week prior. Yet, they still did not suspect any foul play.
The death of Jaxon Sales is reminiscent of other situations in which police did not properly investigate the deaths of gay men of color who overdosed in the home of an older white man. In 2021, Ed Buck, a wealthy white 67-year-old man was convicted of nine charges – including the distribution of methamphetamine that resulted in the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean. Moore and Dean, ages 26 and 55 respectively, both identified as gay Black men. Their deaths, which took place in West Hollywood, California, were also ruled as “accidental overdoses”. However, a public outcry and media attention led to reopening of the investigation – eventually resulting in multiple charges against Buck, his arrest, and his conviction.
The parents of Jaxon Sales are joined by Asian American and LGBTQ community leaders, as well as by elected officials who demand justice. Dr. Kevin Nadal, a Distinguished Professor of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of Queering Law and Order: LGBTQ Communities and the Criminal Justice System shared: “What happened to Jaxon Sales demonstrates how the criminal justice system views LGBTQ people, people of color, and especially LGBTQ people of color as disposable. To not investigate a drug overdose – based only on the testimony of a gay white man – shows how little the SFPD and Medical Examiner care about queer people of color. Such biases and disregard towards LGBTQ people of color
and their families has been a common practice for police officers throughout the history of the United States.”
California State Senator Scott Wiener has asked the SFPD and SF OCME to reopen the investigation. In an open letter to both entities, he writes: “Because no one who was present at the home the evening before Jaxon’s death was interviewed, other than the owner of the property, it is unclear to me how SFPD could have reached any conclusions about this death, in terms of whether or not a criminal act occurred. Additionally, Mr. Sales’ parents have stated their belief that another overdose took place at the same residence shortly before Jaxon’s death. If, indeed, there was a prior overdose at the same residence, I find it alarming that SFPD decided not to take basic investigative steps to determine if the two incidents were at all related.”
Angie and Jim Sales created the change.org petition in late January 2022 – nearly two years after their son’s death. Because of the medical examiner’s comment about the “gay community” and GHB, as well as the police relying solely on the white resident’s testimony, the family questions how much Jaxon’s sexual orientation and race plays a part in SFPD and SF OCME’s refusal to reopen the investigation. In their petition, they write: “The death of a gay Asian male deserves and should receive the same scrutiny as in any other sudden or suspicious death.”
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