A new report gives the first detailed look at what happened when an assistant Yale professor died inside police lockup—and gives 13 exonerated marshals the chance to tell their tale.
Samuel See (pictured) “was very polite, unlike anyone else,” Judicial Marshal Michael Harrington was quoted as saying in the report. Because of that Harrington would have “gone out of his way” to help him, he told investigators.
The report concerns the Nov. 24, 2013, death of Samuel See in police lockup at 1 Union Ave., which is run by the state judicial division. See died at 6 a.m. following his arrest in a domestic dispute at his New Haven home the night before.
Click here to read the report.
See’s death drew national and international attention because of his position at Yale. It prompted outrage and a Dec. 10 protest outside the police station, in which supporters blamed See’s death on police. Police and the state judicial division have maintained that no misconduct occurred. Yet before now, very little information had been released about what actually happened in the lock-up that night. (Click here for a recent story about newly released police documents about See’s arrest.)
The new report, released by the state Judicial Department Friday, was the result of a routine internal investigation. Any time a prisoner dies in lockup, the judicial department as a matter of routine does a similar probe: Click here for another example.
In the report, marshals are quoted saying they checked See’s cell every 15 minutes for the entire night, gave him juice, and saw no signs of distress before discovering him unresponsive at 6 a.m.
The chief medical examiner has ruled that See died of “acute methamphetamine and amphetamine intoxication with recent miocardial infarct.” Translation: He took amphetamines, which caused him to have a heart attack that caused damage that eventually killed him. After his arrest, See was treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital for a laceration on his head, then released and sent to police lockup.
The report found “no evidence” that See “acted in an irrational manner, or displayed the actions of someone who was impaired by drugs or alcohol.” Instead, marshals described a “very polite” and cooperative arrestee. The report found “no evidence to support that See indicated to Judicial Marshals that he was in need of medical attention.”
“There is no evidence to support the fact Samuel See’s death at Union Avenue Detention Center on November 24, 2013 was the result of negligence or inattention by Judicial Marshal Services staff,” the report concludes.
The report includes summaries of interviews with 13 judicial marshals who were working at 1 Union Ave. between 9:56 p.m., when See arrived, and 6 a.m., when he was found unresponsive on the top bunk of his cell.
Here’s what the marshals told investigators, according to the report:
“Something Was Wrong”
Judicial Marshal Alberto Rivas was the first to notice something was wrong with See. Rivas had arrived at work for an overtime shift at 11 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23. His job was to intake new prisoners, and to walk the block of cells every hour, starting at 11:45 p.m.
As he walks through the cells, he looks at inmates to “make sure their chest is still moving,” he told investigators. Rivas said the block was “quiet,” and See “looked and acted normal” throughout the night.
At 6 a.m., Rivas returned to See’s cell to bring him breakfast. Rivas announced that breakfast was served. “See didn’t respond.” Rivas “shook See’s foot through the cell and got no response.” He shook See’s foot a second time. He turned to his partner, Lead Marshal Timothy Reilly. They noticed that See was lying on the top bunk, with his right arm hanging over the side at an odd position.
Reilly tapped his key underneath the top bunk, a tactic that “sometimes wakes people.” See did not respond.
Rivas said he realized “something was wrong.”
Rivas and Reilly went into See’s cell and shook him. He didn’t respond.
Reilly said See’s mouth and eyes were open. There were “no signs of suicide.”
Rivas “ran to the front” and told his supervisor, Judicial Marshal Anthony Rilley, that the prisoner in Cell B-31 was unresponsive. Rivas grabbed an automated external defibrillator.
Meanwhile, Judicial Marshals Christopher Dadio and Donald Abdul-Lateef rushed over to help Reilly take See down from the top bunk to the floor. See’s body was “warm to the touch” and “limp” with “no rigor mortis,” Reilly told investigators.
Dadio compressed See’s chest. Abdul-Lateef set up a CPR mask on See’s mouth and began to breathe into it. Rivas returned and attached AED pads to See’s body. Marshals had a tough time removing See’s shirt because “there were no scissors,” according to Marshal Harrington.
The AED advised “no shock,” so the marshals continued CPR, according to Reilly. Shortly after, a New Haven Fire Department paramedic showed up, hooked up a monitor to See. The paramedic broke bad news to the marshals: See was “asystole,” meaning his heart had stopped.
“There is nothing you guys can do for him,” the paramedic told marshals, according to Reilly.
Rilley wrote that after See’s death, marshals by protocol had to clear the cell blocks. Abdul-Lateef stayed with See’s husband, who was housed in a nearby cell, until all other prisoners had left, according to the report.
“As Polite As Can Be”
The marshals told investigators that See’s sudden death came as a shock. The marshals collectively reported checking on him every 15 minutes throughout the night.
Rilley said “at no point in the evening” did he “hear See making any odd noises which would indicate that he was in distress.” During his tours, he saw See acting “normally.” See “alternated between sitting and lying down, and from the bottom bunk to the top bunk throughout the evening,” according to the report.
See “seemed fine” and “not altered at all” throughout the night, according to Dadio. Dadio said See “asked him for a juice” at around 11:30 p.m. and Reilly gave him the juice.
Dadio said See again asked for a drink again in the morning. (Dadio couldn’t recall if it was during his 4:30 or 5:30 a.m. visit.) See was sitting “Indian style” on the top bunk at the time, Dadio wrote. Marshals didn’t deliver the drink until 6 a.m.
Several marshals pointed out how polite See was.
See was “as polite as can be,” said Judicial Marshal Andre Wright in the report. “I wish all of them acted that way.”
Marshal Roberto Ortiz, who was working intake when See arrived at lockup, told investigators that he “could not tell if See was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
See appeared penitent, Ortiz said. “All he was talking about was how he screwed up with the police officers.”
See resisted arrest and threatened to kill officers, according to police reports.
Mom Called “Concerned” About Meds
Harrington made one comment that prompted a second round of interviews.
At 4:15 a.m., Harrington made two brief visits to See’s cell to speak with him. Harrington told investigators that See asked if his sister had called. Harrington checked with Rilley and learned that See’s mother had called and said “something about his medication,” and that “she was going to bring it to See.”
“What, is she going to perform a miracle?” See replied, according to Harrington. Harrington later figured out that See’s mom lives in California and could not physically get to New Haven that quickly.
See “didn’t look well,” according to Harrington. See “had a shaved head, and sunken cheeks, he looked like a ‘concentration camp person,’” Harrington told investigators. But Harrington said See “never gave the indication that he was sick other than the way he looked,” never asked for medical attention and"never elaborated as to what the medications were for.”
Investigators followed up about the medication. They learned that Rilley did speak with See’s mom.
“Mother called saying Mr. See has medical and psych issues that he takes medication for,” Rilley wrote at 12 a.m. Rilley said he told her “would send Mr. See to the hospital should there be an incident involving illness.”
Rilley told investigators that See’s mom was “concerned with medication,” and he told her she or anyone else was “free to bring it to him.” He said See’s mom said something to the effect of “I’ll see what I can do,” and gave no indication of whether or when any medications might arrive.
No medications arrived, and See did not request any, marshals agreed.
See’s sister, Kelly Flanagan, told the Yale Daily News last month that the family is considering a wrongful-death suit; his family could not be reached for this story. Their attorney< David Rosen, told the Independent it’s too early to draw conclusions about any potential grounds for a suit.