A letter to the editor in the Fresno Bee drew parallels between an in-custody-death in Fresno and the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore, illustrating that police terrorism isn’t isolated to ‘other cities’ on the news as the City likes to suggest.
“Died in Fresno Jail “by Melissa Morse – Extended
“Here is what I had typed before I realized there was a maximum word count:”
The story this week of Freddie Gray, the man who died with an unexplained severing of his spinal cord while the custody of Baltimore, MD police, is a painful reminder to my family of the horror surrounding my brother’s arrest almost seven years ago, here in Fresno.
In the early morning hours of September 24, 2008 my brother, Chris, was walking along Marks Avenue north of Ashlan Avenue. He was 22 years old, had been battling alcohol and drug addiction for a few years, and was homeless as a result of his lifestyle. A police officer stopped and checked his identification, and he was arrested and put in jail for a bench warrant.
I spent a long time being angry at the nameless, faceless officer who took my brother in that night, but recently decided that the officer must have been trying to do Chris a kindness. Maybe it was cold, or maybe he was too drunk to walk anywhere safely. We found out later that he asked for medical attention almost immediately, but was denied. He was put into a holding cell with a few other men where he sat on the toilet because he couldn’t hold his bowels and vomited onto the floor, all the while begging for medical attention.
After hours went by without any help or concern from jail staff, my brother had a seizure, lost consciousness, and ceased breathing. A fellow inmate in the cell began CPR while the other inmates frantically tried to get the attention of the jail staff. Their cries for help went unanswered for a full twenty minutes. My brother died begging for medical attention in the Fresno County Jail.
Their website states: “Corizon Health is contracted to provide health care services to individuals who are detained in the custody of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, ensuring the provision of emergency, acute, and basic medical/mental health care to all inmates with the mission of delivering safe, effective, and efficient services using clinical best practices and evidence-based medicine.”
The coroner listed Chris’s cause of death as a breakthrough seizure, which are seizures that happen to those with seizure disorders even while they are on medication. My brother did not have a seizure disorder and was not on medication for seizures.
I don’t mean to vilify our police or sheriff departments because I know the majority are loyal, committed, and honorable people; I just miss Chris every day. My heart hurts to know the pain Freddie Gray’s family is surely experiencing as I type this, the torment of unanswered questions that will likely follow, and they will be in my prayers for the foreseeable future.