Report: Police Prisoner's Death was Accidental, Intoxication a Factor

By Steve Gravelle, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The death of a Cedar Rapids man in police custody in May was accidental, with intoxication a contributing factor, according to the state medical examiner.

Charges won't be filed in Paul Robert Saldivar's death, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said in a statement issued by the county late Wednesday afternoon.

Saldivar, 33, died May 17, a week after he lost consciousness in police custody after being arrested for public intoxication and on an outstanding warrant.

"I concur with the conclusion of the Iowa State Medical Examiner that the death of Paul Robert Saldivar was accidental in nature and that there is no evidence to suggest that criminal charges would be appropriate," Vander Sanden said in a prepared statement.

"We appreciate the work done and the thorough and exhaustive efforts by all agencies involved in this investigation," Police Chief Wayne Jerman said in a statement issued by his department.

Patrons at Hazzard County Saloon, 315 Second Ave. SE,pointed Saldivar out to officers making a business check shortly after 11 p.m. May 10, telling police he'd been "causing problems," according to police reports.

Saldivar ran from officers but was apprehended in the alley nearby. He became combative after officers discovered his outstanding warrant from Illinois, verbally abusing them and resisting as they tried to place him in the back seat of a patrol car.

Saldivar "continued to thrash about" in the back seat, striking his head against the armrest. He grew quiet as Officer Shannon Aguero drove to the county jail, where there was about a five-minute delay before the patrol car was admitted to the jail's sally port.

Deputies found Saldivar unresponsive, lying on his stomach with his head against the car's door. After failing to find a pulse, they began resuscitation efforts and called an ambulance.

Saldivar weas admitted to Mercy Medical Center in critical condition and never regained consciousness. After learning there was no sign of brain activity, his family decided to remove him from life-support systems May 17.

Tests showed no illegal drugs in Saldivar's blood, but he had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.299 percent, more than three times the legal drunk-driving limit.

Associate State Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Thompson concluded Saldivar died as a result of positional asphyxia, which occurs when a person's posture hinders their ability to breathe.

The state medical examiner's office ruled that the manner of Saldivar's death as accidental, with acute alcohol intoxication a significant contributing factor.
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