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Mother and father sue San Diego County over death of their son in jail

Ronaldino Estrada, 24, was found dead in his cell inside the Vista Detention Center
Sheriff's department investigates inmate's death at San Diego jail

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The mother and father of a 24-year-old man who was found dead inside of a jail cell at the Vista Detention Facility in July 2021 have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.

According to the lawsuit, Ronaldino Estrada was found dead on July 5, 2021 in his cell after suffering from a medical emergency hours earlier. Estrada was in jail after getting arrested for a DUI.

"By the time [Estrada] was discovered...his remains were cold and grey," reads the lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court. "This means that [Estrada] likely lay dead for approximately 12 hours...multiple inmate checks were either skipped or conducted in violation of department policies."

The lawsuit states that Estrada suffered from "cardio-respiratory arrest" and had a history of hypertension and no "known history of illegal substance abuse."

The lawsuit also claims that prior to Estrada's death, deputies "failed to take Ronaldino's vital signs and provide his medication as prescribed."

"Mr. Estrada’s family is heartbroken over his death," said the family's attorney, Brody McBride. "They were all very close. They called him Charles. Charles went to jail for a DUI and was supposed to be released within days. But he didn’t even make it three days before he was found dead in his cell."

McBride tells CBS 8 that Estrada's death is one more tragic example of the poor state of San Diego County jails and the toll they have taken on families and loved ones of those who have died.

"Charles was only 24 years and had his entire life ahead of him. He was going to go on to have a family and a career and buy a house and pay taxes. But, unfortunately, he found him himself in one of the deadliest jail systems in the country. These deaths need to stop."

The Sheriff's Department did not respond to a request for comment, however, according to a Sheriff's Department investigation, Estrada had Fentanyl in his system during a presumptive autopsy test. 

The lawsuit is only the latest in a string of lawsuits and millions of dollars in settlements over deaths in San Diego County jails.

Earlier this year, the state auditor issued a blistering audit report that San Diego County Sheriff's Department "failed to prevent and respond to deaths" in county jails. The report found that from 2006-through-2020, a total of 185 people died inside San Diego jails. That number now to close to 220 deaths with the most recent occurring on August 16, 20222 when deputies found a 54-year-old man dead inside his cell at the George Bailey Detention Facility.

According to the latest lawsuit, attorneys for Estrada's parents say that the county was "a result of deliberate indifference and negligence" and is "vicariously liable for the damages suffered by [Estrada's parents]."

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