Lawsuit: Jail Guards Negligent in Death of 37-Year-Old Inmate - NBC 7 San Diego

Lawsuit: Jail Guards Negligent in Death of 37-Year-Old Inmate

Family of Manuel Cruz say jail guards failed to prevent his suicide.



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    San Diego Central Jail is located on Front Street in downtown San Diego.

    The family of a man who died of an apparent suicide in San Diego Central Jail in October 2018 has filed a lawsuit against the county of San Diego, alleging guards neglected to monitor his jail cell.

    Manuel Cruz, a 37-year-old construction worker, was arrested on the morning of October 2, 2018 for failing to complete courses and pay fines for a prior DUI arrest. During his booking, guards at the San Diego Central Jail deemed Cruz as suicidal and placed him in Enhanced Observation Housing where inmates are under continuous monitoring by jail staff.

    Despite this, claims the lawsuit, at 3:46 pm that afternoon, a Sheriff’s Deputy found Cruz dead inside his cell. The cause of death was listed as “food asphyxia.”

    Cruz’s 18-year-old daughter and his mother, both residents of Mexico, filed a lawsuit on November 5, alleging the county was negligent in a number of categories including failing to check on Cruz while confined to the Enhanced Observation unit as well as neglecting “to render timely medical aid to the decedent when he was in a state of medical emergency and distress.”

    From the period of 2008 through 2018, according to an expose on jail death published by the San Diego Union Tribune, more than 140 inmates have died in county jails. The county of San Diego paid nearly $20 million dollars to families of inmates who died or were hurt while incarcerated in San Diego.

    The county is currently fighting a handful of lawsuits over inmate deaths.

    On September 23, the family of 32-year-old Michael Wilson, who died in February of this year filed a lawsuit against the county of San Diego. Attorneys for Wilson’s family, Julia Woo and Gene Iredale, told NBC 7 Investigates that jail staff had been warned about Wilson’s health issues and his need for medical attention, but failed to provide the needed care.

    Sheriff Bill Gore has taken steps to improve inmate care and surveillance, including hiring a new chief medical officer and soon a mental health director for the jail system. According to a spokesperson for the department, the position remains unfilled.

    The county of San Diego did not respond to a request for comment.