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Family suing Sandoval County Jail over man's death

BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) - Two years after the jailhouse death of an Albuquerque man, his family said they've been stonewalled on answers as to what happened. Now they're suing.

Steven Sanchez was booked into the Sandoval County Detention Center in June 2015. According to records, he needed to be on constant medical watch, but his family said that didn't happen. Three days later, he died.

"He was a young man. He had a full life ahead of him, and now I have to represent his young son," said Rick Sandoval, attorney for the Sanchez family.

Sanchez was arrested and booked into Sandoval County's jail on drug possession charges after Rio Rancho Police say he was found with meth on him in crashed car.

His family's attorney says his death could've been prevented.

"They noted on his screening form that he was going through withdrawal. Withdrawal is a medical condition. Withdrawal can be deadly and in this case it was proven to be," said Sandoval.

Jail records show Sanchez alerted staff he was going through heroin withdrawals. They moved him to a detox cell for constant watch, but Sanchez's family lawyer said that's where things went wrong.

"We have a man who was constantly vomiting, who was vomiting up bile, vomiting up coffee grounds. All they had to do was call an ambulance," he said. "We have a guard who was found sleeping while this inmate was slowly dying," he continued.

The family has filed a lawsuit against the Sandoval County Detention Center.

"I don't know what their staffing levels are like, but we need better training. We need better staffing and we need accountability. Accountability is the key to making sure things like this don't happen again," said Sandoval.

News 13 reached out to the jail for comment, but they told us it's county policy to not speak on pending lawsuits.

The Sanchez family lawyer said, that's not the response he got.

"We got a complete denial of responsibility," he said.

It also contradicts a memo jail staff received after Sanchez's death, as the family attorney showed News 13. That memo recommends staff do a refresher training and that officials conduct an investigation into the guard accused of snoozing on the job.

"The family wants answers and accountability. That's what we want and to make sure this doesn't happen again," said Sandoval.

Sandoval said the outcome of the investigation into the guard sleeping on the job is still a mystery to the family.


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