There was no obvious sign of physical abuse or suicide after marshals found a 34-year-old Yale assistant professor of English dead in the police lock-up at 1 Union Ave., according to someone present at the scene that morning.
State judicial marshals, who run the lock-up, found the professor, Samuel See (pictured), dead in his cell at around 6 a.m. this past Sunday. Police had arrested See and his husband the night before after a domestic dispute.
Both the police department and the state Judicial Department, for whom the marshals work, have launched internal investigations into the death. (The medical examiner has not yet released a ruling on the cause of death.) Police had arrested both him and his husband on Sept. 18, as well, on misdemeanor assault and breach of peace charges after a domestic dispute; they both had restraining orders against each other. See, an admired teacher, had taken an apparently unplanned leave of absence this fall after planning to teach two courses, according to the Yale Alumni Magazine.
A man who was present in the lock-up Sunday morning reported no evidence of bruises on See’s body, except for a cut on his head (for which he had been taken to the hospital the night before).
Upon arriving at the lock-up Sunday morning, the man, who is neither a marshal nor an inmate (and who asked to remain anonymous), saw See’s body on the ground in a hallway. Marshals had moved other inmates to a different wing of the lock-up.
“Mr. See was already dead. It was apparent to me that they had made efforts to resuscitate. They had defibrillator electrodes attached to his chest. He was mostly covered with a blanket,” the man said.
“I spoke to the marshals. They honestly didn’t have any idea why this guy had died. They found him on his bunk.
“Marshals do the rounds every 15 minutes. I can vouch for the marshals; they’re a pretty harmless group of people. They’re not the kind of people who would beat anybody up. I have never seen them anybody abusing anyone. At most if anyone is being rowdy, they’ll do their best to ignore him. They’ll let him pound on the bars for an hour until he gets tired.
“I didn’t see any sign of injuries on him other than a mark on his forehead. I didn’t see bruising or anything like that.”
The marshals, who patrol the lock-up’s cells every 15 minutes, told him that when they discovered See, he was “not moving. His arm was hanging off the bunk in a very uncomfortable angle. There was [no sign of hanging].”
See’s husband was also present in the lock-up, “all broken up. He was a wreck, really upset.” The husband was released from custody soon after.
Police arrested See Saturday at his home Saturday during a dispute between him and his husband. They charged See with violating a protective order and interfering with police after he allegedly fought when them as they tried to handcuff him, and then allegedly yelled at an arresting officer, “I will kill you … I will destroy you.”
No new information has been released about the case since the Independent first reported Wednesday about See’s death in the lock-up. (The originally story appears below.) Among the questions that remain to be answered: How did See get the cut above his eye? How did he die in jail? Why was he arrested in his home for violating a protective order?
Those and other questions are to be the subject of an internal police inquiry ordered this week by Chief Dean Esserman. The Judicial Department will also look at how See died; department routinely investigates the deaths of inmates in lock-up.
The Independent’s original story follows:
A Yale assistant English professor was found dead in the police lock-up this weekend.
The professor, Samuel See (pictured), had been arrested by police in a domestic dispute. He was originally taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries in connection with the incident. Then he was released to the detention facility at police headquarters at 1 Union Ave.
The lock-up is run by marshals working for the state Judicial Department.
New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman said Wednesday that he has ordered an “internal inquiry into the entire event.”
“Any untimely death, this department will investigate fully,” including its own actions, Esserman said.
The state Judicial Department is currently conducting its own “internal review to make sure all of its policies and procedures were followed,” spokesman Rhonda Stearley-Hebert told the Independent Wednesday. She said that’s standard practice in these cases.
Earlier, Stearley-Hebert released this statement to the Independent:
“Mr. Samuel See was delivered to the detention center on Nov. 23 at approximately 9:10 p.m. by New Haven Police and was alert and communicating with Judicial Marshals throughout his detainment until Marshals assigned to the detention center found him non-responsive in his cell at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 24,” said Judicial Department spokesman Rhonda Hebert.
“Marshals immediately provided CPR and other lifesaving efforts, until relieved by New Haven Fire and Rescue.”
See is not believed to have committed suicide. He has had recent interactions with police.
See is on leave this fall, according to Yale’s website.
The Yale Alumni Magazine added this information: “See was ‘a brilliant and generous colleague,’ says English professor Amy Hungerford. She stresses ‘what his students said about him: he was totally dedicated, really kind, and gave his all to his teaching.’ See was on leave from the university this fall, which seems to have been arranged in haste: he was scheduled to teach classes this semester on Gertrude Stein and on “Queer Mythologies,” according to the Blue Book course catalogue. On September 18, he was arrested on misdemeanor charges of assault and breach of peace. A Yale spokesman didn’t answer a question about the reasons for See’s leave.”
See described his work as follows on the university website: “My research and teaching focus primarily on British and American modernist literature and sexuality studies. I’m currently interested in the questions that aesthetic and sexual feeling present for literary historiography. My first book project explores how British and American modernist writers co-opt the evolutionary precepts of degeneration theory to depict queer feeling as natural: material but nonetheless subject to change. My next book project will examine how British and American writers throughout the twentieth century use aesthetics like the mythical method and magic realism to create queer mythologies that depict the construction of transhistorical and transnational queer communities.”
Police spokesman Officer David Hartman released the following account of See’s arrest following inquiries from the Independent. (The name of See’s partner has been removed.)
“On 23 November, 2013 at 5:15 PM, Police received a complaint of a domestic dispute. The caller said her brother was one of the parties involved and that there was a protective order in place.
“Once there, Officers spoke with [See’s husband]. He said despite knowing about the protective order, he went to his home to retrieve his belongings. He said the home is lived in by his husband, Samuel See, 34, of New Haven. He said he spent about two and a half hours there before Police arrived. The protective order was verified and [See’s husband] was charged with violating it.
“The Officers then spoke with See. He told the Officers to remove [See’s husband] from his home. The Officers informed him there was a second protective order in which [See’s husband] was the party protected from See. See ‘became enraged.’ He yelled that it was his house and that he shouldn’t be arrested. See fought with the Officers when they tried handcuffing him.
“As See was led to a Police car, he yelled to one of the arresting Officers, ‘I will kill you… I will destroy you.’
“Officers summoned EMS to evaluate a cut above See’s eye. An ambulance responded and transported him to Yale - New Haven Hospital where his injury was treated. He was released to Police custody and taken to the detention facility.
“See was charged with violating a protective order, interfering with Police and threatening in the second degree.
“The investigation into the cause of See’s death remain under investigation.”
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy released this statement Wednesday afternoon:
“The University community is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Samuel See. Our condolences go out to his family, faculty colleagues, and students, and his friends at Yale and elsewhere. We encourage anyone at Yale who needs comfort and support at this time of loss to reach out to friends in the community or to University resources that are available for consultation and counseling (University Chaplain, Yale Mental Health and Counseling for students, and Magellan Health Services for staff). Mr. See was an assistant professor of English and American Studies who had been on leave during the current semester.”