Family files claim against Fremont, Alameda County in death of man in custody – San Francisco Chronicle

Family files claim against Fremont, Alameda County in death of man in custody - San Francisco Chronicle
Family plans to sue City of Fremont, Alameda Co. Sheriffs Dept. after Sons suicide
The family of a 20-year-old man claims that law-enforcement officers with the city of Fremont and Alameda County ignored their son’s mental health needs and instead beat and left him unaccompanied in a restraint device, resulting in his death several days after being taken into custody.

Christian Madrigal died on June 15, after his family sought medical assistance from the Fremont Police Department six days earlier, when he was suffering from a mental health crisis, according to a complaint the family’s attorneys filed Monday with the county and Fremont. When officers arrived, they ignored pleas from Madrigal’s family that he was in need of help and instead arrested him for being under the influence, the family said.

The Fremont police said 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.”

At Santa Rita, it’s also alleged that Madrigal was handcuffed to a cell door — despite the sheriff’s office policy against it. A lieutenant, the supervisor on duty, was allegedly told of the internal policy, but allowed Madrigal to be chained to the cell door regardless, the claim alleges. Alameda County Sheriff’s Spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said that lieutenant has been placed on leave.

Video footage was captured of the officer’s interactions with Madrigal, and police plan to contact the family’s attorney to discuss their request to view the footage, said Geneva Bosques, a spokeswoman with the Fremont Police Department.

When police responded to the call, the man’s parents told officers that he had recently been released from a psychiatric hospital, the Santa Clara Valley Psychiatric Unit, for mental health issues and he needed to return. Since Madrigal wasn’t willing to go voluntarily, his family needed help in taking him back to the mental health facility, according to the claim.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the district attorney’s office are investigating the incident, per department protocol when an in-custody death occurs, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly.

Jaime, his stepfather, said he was told by nurses at the mental facility that if Madrigal exhibited problems, to call police for a psychiatric or “5150” hold so they could help in transporting him. Instead, police wanted to arrest him. Jaime begged with them that Madrigal didn’t need to go to jail, he just needed help — but they didn’t listen.

The family claims that when Madrigal was transported to the Fremont Jail, he was beaten and choked by officers and placed in a WRAP, a restraint device. On June 10, Madrigal was taken to the Santa Rita Jail, where deputies from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office ignored Madrigal’s parents’ statements that he needed to be examined by a mental health professional, according to the claim.

Instead, a sheriff’s lieutenant ordered deputies to chain Madrigal to a cell door, and he was left unattended for 10 minutes, the family said. During that time he attempted to commit suicide by using the chains to hang himself, according to the complaint.

Madrigal, who had no history of mental illness or criminal record, had visited the mental facility for the first time in May. He had not yet been diagnosed, and the facility had told his family to bring him back, his stepfather said. When the episode happened, he was on leave for the weekend because he had wanted to visit his mother.

John Burris, a civil rights attorney representing the family, called the chains an “instrument of death.”

Geneva Bosques, spokeswoman for the Fremont Police, said all interactions between the Fremont Police and Madrigal were captured and recorded on “various camera systems.” The department will be contacting Burris office to discuss his request to review the footage, she said in a statement sent late Monday afternoon.

“Law Enforcement failed Christian Madrigal and his family at every turn,” Burris said in a statement. “Christian needed and deserved medical help; instead, he was met with indifference and brutality, which ultimately led to him suffering a lacerated spleen and liver along with pulmonary contusions.”

The lieutenant involved in the incident was placed on administrative leave shortly after the incident, Kelly 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. Christian needed support; instead, he was met with death,” Burris said in a statement.

Madrigal was transported to a nearby hospital, where doctors reported bruises on his chest, abdomen, back, legs, feet, arms, shoulders and neck, according to the complaint. He was transported to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where doctors told Madrigal’s parents that he had lacerations in his liver and spleen, and that he suffered from abdominal bleeding and pulmonary contusions.

Burris in a statement is calling for the district attorney’s office to bring criminal charges against the Fremont police officers that allegedly beat, choked and “pulverized” Madrigal, and the lieutenant that ordered he be handcuffed to his cell door.

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.

At a news conference Monday, Madrigal’s parents held back tears as they remembered their son, a young man who was raised in Mexico, and had been struggling with mental health issues. He loved his mother dearly, said Jose Jaime, the man’s stepfather.

The parents of Madrigal, 20, called Fremont police for help on the morning of June 10, after he was suffering a mental health crisis, according to the law offices of well-known civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing the Madrigal family.

“The last words he said when he was taken into police custody, ‘Mom, help me. Mom. I miss you,” Jaime said.

Photo of Christian Madrigal, a 20-year-old man with mental issues, who died in custody in June 2019. The parents of Madrigal have filed a claim against Fremont Police and Alameda County for excessive force. (Courtesy of Family)

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.

Attorney, John Burris, and his client Jose Jaime. They've filed a claim against the city of Fremont and Alameda County for the alleged wrongful death of Christian Madrigal (Angela Ruggiero/Bay Area News Group).

“He just wanted to do the best for his family,” Jaime said. “He was a really shy person.”

The family filed a claim with both the city of Fremont and Alameda County; both government entities can either accept the claim or reject it. If they reject it, the family can then file a lawsuit against them.

Burris called on the Sheriff’s Department and Fremont police to release body-camera footage of the incident. He also demanded that the Alameda County district attorney’s office investigate Madrigal’s death. Burris also called for a federal investigation into Santa Rita.

Sarah Ravani is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: sravani@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SarRavani

“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,” Bosques said.

FREMONT, Calif. (KTVU) – Parents of a 20-year-old East Bay man are preparing to sue the City of Fremont and the Alameda County Sheriffs office after they say he was beaten, choked, restrained and eventually left unsupervised in a jail cell where he committed suicide.

Madrigal is said to have tried to hang himself with the chains used to restrain him. Sheriff’s deputies then sent him to the hospital because of the severity of his injuries.

“Our heart is broken… we dont consider ourselves a family anymore because we miss our son,” said Jose Jaime, the victims father.

Christian Madrigals 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. 

“This is a tragic case and our hearts go out to Christians family and loved ones,” she said.

Jamie said after his sons 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.

“Our heart is broken,” said his stepfather, Jose Jaime, at a press conference Monday afternoon.

“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 police arrived though, Madrigals parents say, the Fremont officers arrested him for being under the influence of drugs and took him to the citys jail. 

The familys 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 mans condition he should have been taken into medical care,” said family attorney John Burris Monday.

A Lieutenant with the Alameda County Sheriffs Department ordered deputies to chain Madrigal to a cell door, which is in violation of the jails internal policies, according to Burris. Alameda County Sheriffs Department Spokesman Sergeant Ray Kelly did not offer further details about Madrigals 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.”

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 Sheriffs Department and the Fremont Police release videos of contacts they had with Madrigal during the incident. 

Sergeant Kelly says the Alameda County Sheriffs Office and the District Attorneys Office have both launched independent investigations into Madrigals 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 Christians family and loved ones. Due to the lawsuit being filed, we unfortunately cannot comment further on the details of this case.”


Posted in Fremont