A 67-year-old Modesto man arrested after a fatal crash at Tully and Rumble roads Wednesday morning died in custody during the night at the Stanislaus County Jail.
The Sheriff’s Department said emergency medical personnel responded Wednesday night when Lupe Cardenas suffered a medical emergency at the men’s jail at 1115 H St.
Before being booked at the jail, Cardenas was evaluated and cleared by a doctor, the department said in a news release. He was housed by himself in a cell and deputies conducted hourly checks on him, the release said. He was last seen responsive at 8:30 p.m.; at about 9:30 p.m., he was found unresponsive. Deputies began lifesaving measures and called for AMR, according to the release.
Emergency medical personnel arrived at the jail, and Cardenas was pronounced dead at the scene. Sheriff’s homicide detectives are investigating the death. There was no use of force by any deputies in the jail, the news release said, and his cause of death will be determined by the Coroner’s Office.
Cardenas suffered minor injuries in the crash, according to Modesto police. Witnesses to the crash said he twice struck a vehicle on Tully Road at Briggsmore Avenue, then fled the scene, speeding north on Tully, where he rear-ended at high speed a Lexus stopped at the red light at Rumble Road. The Lexus driver, identified as 29-year-old Nieves Alejandro Romero of Merced, died from his injuries.
There’s the accident, now he goes to jail for it, which he shouldn’t have been in jail because he’s mentally ill, and they lock him up in a cell. ... Supposedly they’re checking on him every hour. ... We tried a number of times to let them know he needs attention and he’s sick. No telling, his heart’s probably going a hundred miles an hour and his blood pressure was probably skyrocketing.
Sam Cardenas, on his father, who was jailed after causing a fatal car crash
After the crash, Cardenas was held in an ambulance at the scene so he could be given a drug evaluation, police said. They said there were no obvious signs he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but a toxicology test is typical at a major-injury or fatal crash.
Sam Cardenas, Lupe Cardenas’ son, said Thursday afternoon his father had multiple schizophrenic or bipolar episodes dating years back and had been on and off medications. Three days before the crash, his father went to a doctor seeking medication to help with his mental illness, Sam Cardenas said.
“He started taking them the night before the accident,” Cardenas said. “They probably hadn’t kicked in ...”
“... or took a toll on his body, his body didn’t know how to react,” interjected another family member, who did not want to be identified.
“So in that state,” Sam Cardenas continued, “there’s no telling what was going on, because he wasn’t that type of person, he was a loving, caring Christian man, who goes to church all the time, helps a lot of people, feeds street people. He was good by everybody.”
Cardenas said he was at work when he learned his father was arrested. As family members were heading to the Police Department, he called his mother to make sure she let officers know Lupe was medically ill and needed attention.
The family was unable to reach anyone through the jail’s automated phone system, Cardenas said, and sent a lawyer to see him. “The attorney we sent to check on him said, ‘Hey, this guy’s cold.’ ”
“I’m sorry for the people involved, I’m sorry for the family of (Nieves Alejandro Romero),” Cardenas said. “But it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his state of mind, it was a chemical imbalance.”
Over the years, Lupe Cardenas’ wife and family had gone to court multiple times to gain power of attorney, Sam Cardenas said, but were denied because he would appear fine in court appearances. “We tried to tell them we needed to take responsibility for him.”
This was the Sheriff’s Department’s second in-custody death in 2016, said department spokesman Sgt. Anthony Bejaran. The first was Feb. 4 at the Public Safety Center.