Attorneys allege wrongful death of detainee in Tulare County

(Rigo Moran)

Attorneys with Carpenter & Zuckerman allege the wrongful death of Guadalupe Garica at the hands of law enforcement in South Tulare County Detention Center

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – In a recent press briefing, lawyers from Carpenter & Zuckerman, a personal injury law firm, shared new information about a complaint regarding the death of Guadalupe Garcia, 57, while he was in custody at a detention center in Tulare County.

Attorneys John C. Carpenter and Carlos A. Hernandez announced the updated complaint on April 15. Garcia was in custody at the South Tulare County Detention Center at the time of his death, and according to the complaint, died at the hands of Tulare County law enforcement.

This development comes after the firm reviewed body camera and surveillance footage in order to name the officers who were involved in the alleged wrongful death of a detainee in 2022.

The complaint alleges that on July 25, 2022, Guadalupe Garcia was taken into custody and transported to the South Valley Justice Center by Tulare County Sheriffs. During processing, Garcia passed away. Jail staff left Garcia dead in his cell for over an hour before providing medical attention.

The newly released video footage, which has been reviewed by The Sun-Gazette, shows multiple officers pinning Garcia against the wall and floor of a cell and using their knees on his back while bending his legs backward. The video footage goes on to show that officers held Garcia in this position for over four minutes as they struggled to remove his handcuffs.

The video does not appear to show Garcia struggling, but rather, he can be seen grasping the officers hands. The video appears to show officers struggling to find the correct keys to remove the handcuffs from Garcia.

Once officers leave the cell, Garcia remains in the same prone position with his hands behind his back and his legs crossed in the same position the officers were holding him in while removing his handcuffs. Surveillance video shows that officers looked in the cell repeatedly but did not check on Garcia for over an hour. Once it was realized that Garcia was in an emergency condition, medical staff were summoned, but by then, it was too late.

Carpenter named Tulare County Sheriff’s Office’s public employees Deputy Jose Renteria, Sergeant Orlando Davalos, Deputy Roger Wenzinger, Deputy Sal Hinojos and Detective Humberto Santoyo as the officers who are alleged to have caused the death of Garcia.

The complaint also names the County of Tulare, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and Lieutenant Megan Pinheiro. It alleges that defendants failed to implement and enforce reasonable policies, procedures, practices and protocols to ensure Garcia’s safety while in custody. 

“The evidence clearly shows that the deputies present were 100% in control,” Carpenter said in an emailed statement to The Sun-Gazette. “If someone is in control of your body, they should be making sure your body is kept safe.

“Instead, they laid him down in a prone position with handcuffs and his legs crossed, and compressed his chest cavity so he couldn’t breathe. They then left him for dead, not bothering to check up on him until an hour later. We continue to see cases where authorities are violating human rights, especially of those who are incarcerated, which are resulting in wrongful deaths. This is awful, and it needs to stop.”

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement to The Sun-Gazette: 

“This case is currently in litigation. However, the Medical Examiner listed Mr. Garcia’s cause of death as ‘accidental due to methamphetamine overdose.’ The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office has no further comment regarding this matter.”

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