Grand jury report on Pinet death paints a different picture from COC report
The grand jury report about Raul Pinet Jr.'s death investigation tells a similar story to that in a report released in April by the state Commission of Corrections. However, the grand jury and Commission of Corrections came to different conclusions. The Commission ruled the 31-year-old's death as a homicide, and the grand jury found that law enforcement acted appropriately. YNN's Erin Clarke looks at the differences between the two reports.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Loved ones of Raul Pinet Jr. and advocates maintain that he died after being improperly handled by the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department. They say the 31-year-old was restrained by deputies kneeling on his neck and back, causing conditions that impeded his breathing. Details were outlined in a state Commission of Correction report that released this spring.
"There was a grand jury report that does not address the issues of how he was restrained," said Barrie Gewanter, NYCLU CNY Chapter Director.
Instead, Jose Perez, the Vice President for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the grand jury report paints the picture of a drug addicted man who died from a heart attack due to cocaine induced excited delirium syndrome, with a contributory factor of prone restraint.
This is despite the fact that the COC Board rejected that Pinet died from excited delirium, calling it a controversial diagnosis that is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and that is has no scientific basis of support.
"There is nothing, nothing at all about all the different policies that were not followed by these officers and policies that were actually broke," said League of United Latin American Citizens, Jose Perez.
The COC examines video that shows a nurse did a cursory examination on Pinet Jr., left, deputies restrained him and then he stopped moving. The nurse returned once again and could not find a pulse.
In the grand jury report, it isn't immediately clear that deputies entered the padded room after the nurse exited. The report left out details about Pinet Jr. being restrained. He was then left alone laying motionless for about seven minutes because deputies thought he was faking unresponsiveness when he did not react to water being sprayed on him, pounding on the door, or yelling.
Advocates point to two previous deaths at the jail where the belief that a prisoner was feigning illness, and where improper restraint led to death and say the Sheriff's office claim that changes have been and are being implemented, are hard to believe.
"Part of the problem with the recommendations that went out is they are part of the policy already and these policies were not followed. How they were complying with the policies when they failed to act at the time? I don't know," said Perez.
The discrepancies between the two reports and a lack of accountability taken for procedural failures pointed out in the COC report leave many unanswered questions, including what exactly the grand jury saw, and a lack of faith among residents in the system. Advocates are still pushing for oversight similar to the Citizens Review Board that responds to Syracuse Police complaints as a solution.
Calls to the District Attorney's office for comment have not been returned.