By Jack Douglas Jr. and Jason Allen |CBS11 News|
WEATHERFORD (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s a picture no mother should ever have to watch.
“Sir, I can’t breathe …I need a doctor …please …help me, help me…,” Charles Alvarez repeated in shallow gasps, as he slumped over on a bench in the Parker County Jail.
Susan Hitshew fought back tears as she watched the jail surveillance video, obtained exclusively by CBS 11’s I-Team, of her son as he was ushered into the jail’s booking area.
Police and jailers thought he was just drunk – not deathly sick.
“I’m counting heads …this is how many stood around and watched him die,” Hitshew said, as she watched the video – agonizing minutes passing – of her son pleading for help, his body collapsing, jailers holding him back up …until he slumps to the concrete floor.
The I-Team has for months investigated the “in-custody” death of the 25-year-old Alvarez, after he was taken to jail in early February by a Weatherford police officer who found him collapsed in the street in the early-morning hours.
The jail surveillance video provides chilling detail of Alvarez’s arrival to the jail, including Alvarez falling to the ground as he gets out of a patrol car.
Initially, jail staff seem dismissive of the young man’s subsequent pleas for help.
“Yeah, you’re talking …you can breathe,” one jailer told Alvarez.
Another one told the slumped-over Alvarez: “You’re doing just fine.”
More than 20 minutes pass before one of the jailers brings in an oxygen tank.
A half-hour after Alvarez’s arrival to the jail, the staff begin to pull off his jail-stripes uniform and place him back in civilian clothes.
It’s about then that someone mentions getting outside help.
“Yeah, go ahead and have an ambulance come up here to the jail,” said one jailer.
But before paramedics could arrive, Alvarez was on the floor, non-responsive, and jailers – now realizing Alvarez was in dire need of medical attention– were applying chest compressions in an effort to revive him.
He was pronounced dead later that same day at a Fort Worth hospital, due, according to the autopsy report, from a lack of oxygen to the brain, hemorrhaging and “multi-organ failure.”
Alvarez’s family, as well as police, now believe that when he was found that early February morning, he was not simply drunk, but had been beaten and thrown into the street.
Weatherford Police Chief Mike Manning has told the I-Team an internal investigation found that Alvarez’s arresting officer did nothing wrong when he took him to jail, rather than immediately calling for an ambulance.
A spokesman for the private, New Jersey-based company that was running the county jail at the time declined an on-camera interview with the I-Team.
Instead, Community Education Centers sent a statement that, in part, read: “While the result of the event was tragic, it has been investigated and reviewed, and there has been no question of improper conduct during Mr. Alvarez’s presence at the jail.”
Susan Hitshew sees it a different way.
“I’m angry because I can’t grieve my son’s death,” she told the I-Team. “I’m too busy trying to get somebody to hear us and to say, ‘This wasn’t right.’”
Still fighting back tears, Hitshew added: “He didn’t deserve to die like that.”
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