It has been more than two years since Raul Pinet Junior died while in custody at the Onondaga County Justice Center. Since then activists have been demanding answers about his death. Saturday afternoon the United As One Coalition gathered Pinet's family and the community together for an update on their work. And as our Candace Hopkins reports, the group is calling for increased pressure on county officials to make changes at the jail.
SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Raul Pinet Jr. may be gone, but he is far from forgotten. He died in August of 2010, after being restrained by jail staff at the Onondaga County Justice Center. No charges were filed after a grand jury investigation determined jail staff acted appropriately. The official investigation may be closed, but Pinet's family says their wounds have not healed.
"It reopens a scar that it's been trying to close for the longest, but it's been complicated for us, it's like starting all over", said Nilka Pinet, Raul's Sister.
Several of Pinet Junior's family members were on hand Saturday for the latest forum on the 31-year-old's death. The United As One Coalition believes that jail staff could have prevented Pinet Junior's death but they failed to follow several protocols. Those protocols were developed after a similar death 15 years ago.
"What we are asking today is why it appears that some of those policies were not followed, and if indeed those policies that were put in place to prevent such a death were not followed, why have none of the commanders in charge that day been held accountable either by the DA, or the Sheriff's Department, or the County Legislature", said NYCLU CNY Chapter Director Barrie Gewanter.
The group is continuing their calls for outside oversight at the facility.
"We want something like the Citizen's Review Board for the Syracuse Police Department, we just accomplished that last year, and we think that the Onondaga Sheriff needs that, we need oversight, we need people to get disciplined when they violate the policies", said League of United Latin American Citizens Vice President Jose Perez.
While nothing can bring Pinet Jr. back, his family wants to make sure no one else has to suffer the same fate.
"I don't think it's fair, ok they're inmates and they're gonna be in there cause they did something wrong, but they don't need to be treated this way", said Pinet.
There have been differing reports about how Pinet, Jr. died. A Grand Jury report painted Pinet as a drug addicted man who died from a heart attack due to cocaine induced excited delirium syndrome, with the restraint being a contributory factor.
The State Commission of Corrections however, ruled his death a homicide caused by 'asphyxia during restraint'.
YNN reached out to the county for comment, but they refused because of pending litigation in the case.