The family of a 20-year-old man who died in June after he was arrested in Fremont and taken to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin filed a civil rights claim on Monday against Fremont police and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
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.
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.
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.
He said Madrigal never recovered and ultimately died on June 15.
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."
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.