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WEATHERFORD (CBS11 I-TEAM) – When Weatherford police found a man shirtless …lying on the ground …they took him to jail, suspecting he was drunk.
Less than a day later, 25-year-old Charlie Alvarez was dead – not from alcohol, but from internal bleeding.
“It’s so frustrating, so heartbreaking as a mother,” Susan Hitshew told the I-Team, as she held back tears while talking about how she and her family feel strongly that her son died as the result of an assault.
“Wouldn’t you get him medical treatment before an arrest? Wouldn’t that just be …because you don’t know,” she said.
Five months have passed since that early February morning, yet the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which is handling the case, continues to list the manner of death as “undetermined.”
In a statement, the ME’s office told the I-Team it has ordered further forensic testing. “There is a possibility the manner of death may, or may not, remain the same, upon final completion of testing,” the statement said.
The Weatherford Police Department declined to allow the arresting officer, a veteran, to be interviewed because of the pending investigation.
But Police Chief Mike Manning, in an exclusive interview, told the I-Team a thorough investigation points to Alvarez dying from a crime, not intoxication.
“We would like to file charges in this case,” Manning said.
But, he added, “Until we have a manner-of-death determination …we can’t proceed.”
However, the chief said he does not blame the officer who first suspected Alvarez of simply being too drunk to stand, and wasn’t in need of immediate medical attention.
“He told him to get out of the street …told him to stand up. He said, ‘I can’t stand up,’“ Manning said.
So Alvarez was ordered to “roll out of the street…so he rolled himself over,” the chief told the I-Team.
The officer was able to get Alvarez into his patrol car and take him to the Parker County Jail on suspicion of public intoxication. But once there, Manning said, a jail intake officer balked, saying Alvarez “needed to be checked out medically before they would accept him as a prisoner.”
The chief told the I-Team an ambulance was already en route when Alvarez then began complaining that he could not breathe, needed water, and collapsed.
He was first taken to a hospital in Weatherford, then rushed to Plaza Medical Center in Fort Worth, where he died.
Investigative Reporter Jason Allen asked the chief: “Is there anything you feel your officers, or your department, could have done differently or better in this case?
Chief Manning’s response: “Not really. No.”
But Alvarez’s mother, Hitshew, and his father, Charles Alvarez, said they can’t keep from wondering whether their son would still be alive if an ambulance had been called sooner.
“That’s my job, whether he’s here or not. I still gotta protect him,” she said.
“To say it’s difficult is an understatement,” said the father, fighting back tears. “It’s heartbreaking.”
If you want to reach CBS 11′s Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you can email him firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to reach CBS 11′s Jason Allen, you can email him email@example.com
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