Family Says Man Who Stopped Breathing in Police Car Taken Off Life Support

By Jeff Raasch, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The man who stopped breathing in the back of a Cedar Rapids police squad car last week will be pulled off life support, according to his cousin.

Paul R. Saldivar Sr., 33, of Cedar Rapids, was arrested last Thursday evening for public intoxication after he was kicked out of two downtown bars, police said. Police said in a statement Saldivar was hitting his head against the armrest while he was being handcuffed, and remained combative while he was being taken to jail, but was unconscious when the officer arrived at jail.

At a candlelight vigil Tuesday outside of Mercy Medical Center, family members announced that Saldivar would be taken off life support soon. Saldivar's cousin, Jamie Gifford, who attended the vigil, said tests have not revealed any brain injuries, leaving the family with more questions than answers.

Gifford said Saldivar had seizures after the incident, but those had lessened since he was placed in a medically induced coma.

According to police, Saldivar ran from officers after being kicked out of Hazzard County Saloon, 315 Second Ave. SE shortly after 11 p.m. on May 10. He reportedly became verbally agitated when he was caught in an alley and kicked at the interior of the police car while en route to the Linn County Jail.

Saldivar became quiet just prior to arriving at the jail, police said. The officer parked and found Saldivar unresponsive in the back seat.

Police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said Wednesday that one officer was with Saldivar as he was being transported to jail. When the officer learned he was not breathing, CPR was administered and deputies at the jail came out to help. A police commander also arrived at the scene before an ambulance took Saldivar to Mercy Medical Center. He was admitted to the intensive care unit.

"Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with the family," Hamblin said.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation was notified and is continuing to investigate the incident. Hamblin confirmed the officer who had been transporting Saldivar to the jail remains on a normal work schedule.

People transported in Cedar Rapids police cars are handcuffed, but are usually not otherwise restrained. Metal bars were installed over the back seat windows a few summers ago, after several were kicked out in one week. The department also transitioned from metal grating to Plexiglas to separate the front and back seats, when spitting on officers became a problem.

The squad car used to transport Saldivar was not equipped with in-car video cameras, as the department continues an upgrade. Hamblin said the vendor for the department's dash cameras, as they are commonly called, went bankrupt, and only about a dozen of the 60 squad cars currently have the new video cameras.

Hamblin said the goal is to have all squad cars upgraded to the new cameras by the end of 2013. She said a few of the new Chevrolet Caprice squad cars have gone into service, and going forward, the department anticipates a new squad car equipped with cameras each week.

The department has prioritized hiring officers over the need for in-car cameras, Hamblin said.

"It comes down to the money," Hamblin said. "We don't have the money."

Saldivar has a lengthy criminal history, including felony convictions for extortion, burglary and drug possession, according to online court records.
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