Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Raul Pinet’s family is speaking out after a report released Tuesday said he was starved of oxygen when jailers tried to restrain him the night he was brought into the Onondaga County Justice Center.
Pinet’s family never believed he died from a cocaine induced delirium, as a county medical examiner had initially said. A report by the New York State Commission of Correction called his death homicide, caused by asphyxia during restraint.
"It's just hard to see your brother go, see the cop just hitting him and he is asking for help. They treated him like a dog,” said Raul’s sister, Luz N. Pinet.
Luz watched as her brother was taken to a police van on Shonnard Street in August 2010. According to the state report, neighbors had called 911 when Raul Pinet Jr. began wandering around and asked for help because he thought someone was trying to kill him. The report said he grabbed a young child and wouldn't let go. Luz remembers a cut on her brother's forehead as police transported him to the Onondaga County Justice Center.
"My brother was bleeding, asking for help that he couldn't breathe and they still had him held down and I ask them to please set him down because he is not resisting arrest, he just, he can't breathe,” Luz Pinet further explained.
Raul Pinet was high on drugs when he arrived at the Onondaga County Justice Center, According to the state report.
"The Medical Review Board noted that videograph showed sheriff's deputies kneeling on Pinet's back and neck and that a 'spit mask' was improperly positioned on his face, conditions that interfered with his ability to breathe," the report said.
Minutes later, inside a secure room, Pinet was dead, his body motionless for nearly eight minutes before a nurse checked for a pulse. The report says Pinet Jr. was convinced to walk into the Justice Center, but started to struggle and spit before he got inside. Deputies placed a mesh spit hoodie over his face.
The report breaks down what happened for the next several minutes:
8:49: Pinet is carried by deputies into the booking area with emergency restraint belts on his waist, torso, and legs.
8:50: Pinet is placed in a secure "time out" room face down. Deputies begin to remove his clothes.
8:51: A nurse completes a hands-on assessment and leaves. The report suggests a more thorough assessment would have been required by policy.
8:52: Pinet struggles again. His spit mask appears to be displaced, meaning he can't breathe properly.
8:53: He screams "please please", continuing to yell and struggle until...
8:55: When his leg belts and handcuffs are removed. Deputies put Pinet in a figure four restraint position. They kneel periodically on his neck and back over his lung cavity He stops moving and becomes silent.
8:56: Deputies exit the room leaving Pinet motionless and face down with one arm behind his back.
They believe he is faking unresponsiveness and squirt him with water, nudge him, and bang on the door.
9:04: The nurse is called and finds no pulse.
"I saw my son in the funeral home. Bruises were everywhere, on his face, his knees, his chest, his teeth, missing [fingernails]" said Raul’s father, Raul Pinet, Sr.
"He got broken ribs. He got missing fingernails. He got bruises. He got bruises in the ears. The skin was scraped. He got bruises all over his body. That is what is missing in this report," said Luz Encarnacion, President of the League of United Latine American Citizens. "Raul was beaten and no one should be beaten like that."
Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said, "This is an extremely unusual situation, but it definitely needs, in my judgment to be looked at a little further and that's what I plan to do."
Fitzpatrick said he'll meet with the family this week, before deciding if there is evidence to bring the case to a grand jury.
Meanwhile, the state report recommends extensive internal reviews of the employees on duty, more training and better communication between agencies during transports of people in custody.
Pinet's family wants more than recommendations from a state commission or policy changes. They want accountability in a courtroom. They want criminal charges against the deputies and nurse on duty when Raul Pinet Jr. died.
"Today was my son. Tomorrow can be yours. Nobody knows," said Raul Pinet Sr. "We need some justice. That is what we need."