Attorney John Burris, who represents the family of Christian Madrigal, said at a news conference at his Oakland office that Madrigal’s parents called Fremont police on June 10 to seek medical assistance for him because he was suffering a mental health crisis and told responding officers that he had recently been released from the psychiatric hospital for mental health issues and needed to return.
But Burris alleged that the officers ignored Madrigal’s mental health needs and instead arrested him for being criminally under the influence.
Family files claim against Fremont, Alameda County in death of man in custody
Burris said Madrigal was first taken to Fremont City Jail, where he said officers beat, choked and placed him in a full-body restraint called a WRAP device.
The civil rights attorney said Fremont officers then transported Madrigal to the Santa Rita Jail, where Burris alleged that Alameda County sheriff’s deputies also ignored Madrigal’s parents’ pleas to have him examined by a mental health professional or transferred to a mental health facility.
Burris alleged that a sheriff’s lieutenant, previously identified by a sheriff’s spokesman as Lt. Craig Cedergren, ordered his deputies to chain Madrigal to a cell door, in violation of the jail’s internal policies.
Attorney John Burris (left), with mother Gabriela Covarrubias (center) and stepfather Jose Jaime, speak during a press conference Monday, Sept. 9, 2019 in Oakland, Calif. The parents of Christian Madrigal filed a claim against Fremont and Alameda County for their son's death while in police custody(Angela Ruggiero/Bay Area News Group).
Burris said Madrigal was left unattended for at least 10 minutes and reportedly was found trying to commit suicide by hanging himself using the same chains the deputies restrained him to the door with.
He said Madrigal was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors refused to treat him because they noted his internal injuries were so severe they warranted emergency trauma care so he was then brought to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.
Burris said doctors at Eden diagnosed Madrigal as suffering from a lacerated spleen and liver along with bruising all over his body, including pulmonary contusions.
Burris said, “The system failed Christian and his family at each and every turn. A person should never be treated this way. Christian deserved medical care; instead, he received brutality.”
“The system failed Christian and his family at each and every turn. A person should never be treated this way. Christian deserved medical care; instead, he received brutality. Christian needed support; instead, he was met with death,” Burris said in a statement.
Burris said, “Christian’s family is traumatized because he was vibrant and had the world in front of him but he wound up dead.”
Burris said filing the claim is the first step in a legal process in which he ultimately intends to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Fremont and the sheriff’s office.
Speaking in Spanish, Madrigal’s mother Gabriela Covarrubias said Madrigal’s last words to her when he was arrested were, “Mom, help me. Mom, I miss you.”
Madrigal’s stepfather Jose Jaime described him as “a really smart guy” who had gone to high school in Mexico but had moved to Fremont with his family.
Jaime said Madrigal wanted to work at two jobs to help support his family but started having mental health episodes on May 24.
Jaime said Madrigal had been released from the psychiatric unit at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose on June 8 but officials there said he should be brought back there if his erratic behavior didn’t end and he needed further mental health treatment.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly wasn’t available for comment on Monday but he previously said Lt. Cedergren was put on administrative leave pending the results of investigations into Madrigal’s death by the sheriff’s office and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
The city of Fremont issued a statement saying the claim “wrongfully claims excessive force was used against Madrigal while in the custody of the Fremont Police Department for being under the influence of drugs.”
The city said, “All interactions involving Madrigal were captured and recorded on various camera systems. Our (Police) Department will be contacting John Burris to discuss his request to view and release the video.”
The city said, “This is a tragic case and our hearts go out to Christian’s family and loved ones” but it cannot comment further on the case because of the litigation.
FREMONT, Calif. (KTVU) – Parents of a 20-year-old East Bay man are preparing to sue the City of Fremont and the Alameda County Sheriff’s office after they say he was beaten, choked, restrained and eventually left unsupervised in a jail cell where he committed suicide.
“Our heart is broken… we don't consider ourselves a family anymore because we miss our son,” said Jose Jaime, the victim’s father.
Christian Madrigal’s family say they called 911 on June 10 because he was having a mental health crisis. Madrigal was home after a recent stay in the Santa Clara Valley psychiatric unit, and they believed he needed to return.
Madrigal was pronounced dead on June 15 after doctors determined there was no brain activity, according to the claim. The Alameda County coroner’s office said Madrigal’s cause of death was on an “information hold” and declined to release information.
Jamie said after his son’s release, he was told that should there be another episode that he should call police and tell them that Madrigal suffers from mental illness so that he can be readmitted to the hospital.
“Those were the recommendations from the nurse at the clinic that if he continued with this behavior, the first thing we should do is call 911,” he said.
When cops arrived though, Madrigal’s parents say, the Fremont officers arrested him for being under the influence of drugs and took him to the city’s jail.
The family’s claim against the city, filed by civil rights attorney John Burris, accuses officers of beating and choking the young man before putting him in a restraint.
“Given this young man's condition he should have been taken into medical care,” said family attorney John Burris Monday.
A Lieutenant with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department ordered deputies to chain Madrigal to a cell door, which is in violation of the jail’s internal policies, according to Burris. Alameda County Sheriff's Department Spokesman Sergeant Ray Kelly did not offer further details about Madrigal’s treatment only saying the jail has “many mental health policies and also mental health staff on site. There are many protocols in place to deal with people in custody who are in a mental health crisis situation.”
Jaime said as parents, he and his wife felt like they had failed. His mother, Gabriela Covarrubias, said in Spanish that Madrigal was a happy boy.
Madrigal was left unattended for about 10 minutes and deputies found him attempted to hang himself with the chain that restrained him to the door, according to the legal claim.
He was taken to a hospital and treated for internal injuries, including a lacerated spleen and liver. He died a few days later.
Burris said the family is demanding that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and the Fremont Police release videos of contacts they had with Madrigal during the incident.
Sergeant Kelly says the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney’s Office have both launched independent investigations into Madrigal’s death. A Lieutenant is also on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, according to Kelly.
“The suit wrongfully claims excessive force was used against Madrigal while in the custody of the Fremont Police Department for being under the influence of drugs.
All interactions involving Madrigal were captured and recorded on various camera systems. Our Department will be contacting John Burris to discuss his request to view and release the video.
This is a tragic case and our hearts go out to Christian’s family and loved ones. Due to the lawsuit being filed, we unfortunately cannot comment further on the details of this case.”