Family of man who died in custody in Tulare County files lawsuit

Kate Nemarich Image
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Family of man who died in custody in Tulare County files lawsuit
A family is suing Tulare County, the sheriff's office, and five deputies after their loved one died while being held at the South Tulare County Detention Center.

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Family and loved ones of Guadalupe Garcia held a press conference Monday morning alongside their lawyers, detailing how they say deputies killed the 57-year-old back in July 2022.

It's been nearly two years since Guadalupe died in custody. Now, his family is looking for justice and answers about his death.

Lawyers for the family say Garcia was arrested for DUI on July 25, 2022.

Attorney John Carpenter says deputy body camera video and surveillence video they received from the county show deputies cuffed and put leg shackles on Garcia and walked him into a cell.

The law firm released edited video, which they say shows the incident as it unfolded.

"These officers then went into the cell, and they gave him the impossible demand of laying down on his stomach with your hands behind your back," Carpenter said. "It's not something you can physically do, and they called that being non-compliant."

That's when Carpenter says the situation escalated, the deputies put Garcia on his stomach, got on top of him and stayed there for four minutes.

When he stopped moving, deputies left him alone in his cell.

"When they took off the cuffs, his hands never came out from behind where they were in handcuffs," Carpenter said. "When they left him in his cell, his legs remained crossed in the way they were for the hold, and he stayed there face down with his mask on motionless for an hour."

Carpenter says numerous people passed Garcia lying in his cell, however, no one attempted to help him until an hour later after another inmate alerted staff.

The wrongful death lawsuit was initially filed in 2023 but updated after Carpenter says they received the video, which he said did not match the county's report.

The lawsuit includes four deputies accused of holding Garcia and a fifth said to be watching.

While Carpenter seeks justice for Garcia's family, he says changes need to be made to prevent other deaths like this one.

"There's definitely a belief, I think, in the system that if you're incarcerated, you don't matter and when you don't matter, bad things happen to you and that culture has to change," Carpenter said.

We reached out to the Tulare County Sheriff's Office for comment. They say the medical examiner listed Garcia's death as "accidental overdose due to methamphetamine overdose."

Due to this being an open lawsuit, they are not commenting further.

The case will be heard in federal court on May 20.

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