SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) - Raul Pinet died as he was being restrained by Onondaga County Sheriff’s Deputies in 2010. In the months that followed, the case inspired a grass-roots effort for change that continued on Saturday with a public forum in Syracuse.
A state report called Pinet's death a homicide, but a grand jury found deputies need more training to deal with drug-related arrests and no one was formally charged.
"They had enough evidence to work on the case even deeper and they just didn't. They chose not to,” said Raul’s sister, Nilka Pinet,
"That report is a joke because the grand jury report seems to be displaying and showing all the different facts as if the person that was going to be indicted was Raul Pinet. He was the victim here,” said Jose Perez with the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Feeling unsatisfied with investigators and the court system, neighbors joined the United as One Coalition. They hoped to ramp up pressure on elected officials to take a closer look at jail procedures.
The United as One Coalition is asking people call, write and meet county legislators, pushing for stronger policies to be enforced.
"There is no question that it is long past due for there to be independent oversight and review of what happens in the Onondaga County Jail, because the sheriff's office keeps repeating fatal mistakes,” said Barrie Gewanter with the CNY Civil Liberties Union.
United as One Coalition members handed out packets at the forum, outlining information about the case and options for future oversight. The options they're recommending include:
-Establishing an independent review board that has powers to investigate complaints and policies, with recommendations to the sheriff and county legislature. The board would also monitor implementation of changes.
-Create an advisory board with members of the community, under the authority of the sheriff's office or county legislators to investigate, review and recommend policies.
-Draw up a multi-level committee with members of county agencies to review inmate deaths.
-Require the sheriff and health commissioner to regularly report jail incidents to the legislature.
-Form a jail oversight committee of county legislators.
-Give an inspector general independent authority to investigate incidents and complaints, as well as review policies, make recommendations and monitor changes.
The grand jury did call for a new commission to review protocol at the jail, as well as more training for deputies and a better video system.
Sheriff Kevin Walsh says many of the recommendations have been addressed. Raul Pinet's sister believes the changes don't go far enough.
"Hope is the last thing that you can lose and I have faith that one of these days, justice will be served,” said Nilka Pinet.