By all accounts, 51-year-old Francisco Mendoza exhibited great health for his age. Since being arrested in September 2011 by U.S. Marshals, he spent part of his time at Santa Ana City Jail doing intense one-hour workout routines. Mendoza's sole complaints to nursing staff over the years were of constipation and athlete's foot. Why then, did he collapse in the recreation yard on the morning of October 21, 2013 after doing 40 burpees?
A week prior to being treated by emergency medical personnel, Mendoza got a clean bill of health during an annual physical. The Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office noted in its investigation of his death that a nurse practitioner observed no abnormalities, although the report says another inmate had noticed Mendoza beginning to look gaunt a few months before his death.
On the fateful October morning when Mendoza was working out at the jail, he collapsed, unable to catch his breath. Medical staff attended to him in a timely manner, but couldn't revive Mendoza, who was then transferred to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.
Efforts to jump start his heartbeat resulted in a stabilized condition at the hospital. But by October 30, 2013, a neurologist pronounced him brain dead. The autopsy report into his death provides clues as to why. Mendoza suffered from an artery blockage and died from complications due to a heart attack.
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The OCDA saw no reason to suspect negligence or foul play in its investigation. "There is no evidence to support a rational conclusion that any SAPD personnel or any individual acting under the supervision of SPAD caused or contributed to Mendoza's death," the legal analysis concludes.
The investigation letter can be read in its entirety online.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2