DA Says OC Jail Inmate Died of Liver Disease
On Feb. 9, the Orange County district attorney's office, which investigates all in-custody deaths inside county jails, released the latest of its investigative reports on the nine such incidents that occurred last year, some of which were the focus of a recent Weekly feature story. This report concerns 43-year-old Gregorio Torres, a homeless man from Dana Point who was arrested for an "outstanding warrant" on June 24, 2010. According to the report, Torres was a self-acknowledged alcoholic who drank "12 beers a day" and suffered from numerous medical problems relating to his disease and lifestyle, including malnutrition, mild alcohol hepatitis, inflammation of the ears, swelling of the feet and an enlarged heart.
A day after arriving at the jail, Torres "was assigned to a medical housing unit" at the Central Men's Jail Complex's Intake and Release Center. Although he admitted to being an alcoholic, Torres "denied any other medical problems." Medical records reviewed by DA investigators show he was treated daily at the jail until July 4, when Torres developed a "fever" and a doctor requested he be transferred to Western Medical Center Anaheim.
A hospital physician immediately diagnosed Torres as suffering from "ethyl alcohol withdrawal, fever, hyponatremia, possibly lower-extremity cellulitis and liver disease." He continued to receive treatment at the hospital, but on July 17, his condition worsened, and Torres was transferred to the hospital's intensive-care unit. Five days later, on July 22, Torres suffered a heart attack and at 5:45 p.m. was pronounced dead.
As with the last inmate, Richard James Wilson, whose death the DA investigated, toxicology reports show he was full of drugs, including diazepam, licodaine, midazolam, lorezepam, temazepam, oxazepam, trimethorprim. However, in Torres' case, these were all found to be from prescription drugs and were present at levels deemed "therapeutic," so they played no role in his death.
"Torres' death was natural, caused by cirrhosis of the liver, attributable to chronic alcohol abuse, and multiple organ failure," concluded Deputy DA Keith Bogardus, who wrote the agency's report. "Simply put, the evidence does not support a finding of criminal culpability in Torres' death."
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