Family demands answers after inmate found dead in cell

A candlelight vigil was held in San Jose Wednesday night where family members of 23-year-old Isai Lopez are raising questions about his in-custody death at the Santa Clara County Main Jail. 

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said a preliminary investigation reveals he committed suicide by hanging Sunday night. However, the family said he’s not one to take his own life and is demanding answers.

Family and friends remembered Lopez as a loving, caring and humble man. 

“I think it's hurtful when you lose a child,” said sister Nallely Escobedo. “When you lose a brother I think it's a pain no one will ever understand.”

Lopez had been in jail for a little more than a month. He turned himself in. He had a warrant out for his arrest stemming from several assault charges. The sheriff’s office said during a welfare check, a deputy discovered him unresponsive alone in his cell Sunday just after 8 p.m.

Medical staff immediately administered CPR. He was pronounced dead 15 minutes after he was found. The sheriff's office said a preliminary investigation reveals he committed suicide by hanging. The family said that doesn't add up.

“He was happy,” said Escobedo. “He was talking about the future. There was nothing suicidal. He didn't have any mental illnesses.”

They're questioning how Lopez was treated especially after Lopez’s mother got a call from him two days prior to his death.

“She received a call,” said Escobedo. “He had admitted to being hit by some of the deputies.”

"There's no evidence to that and I understand the family's concerns,” said Sgt. Reginald Cooks of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. “I can understand and empathize what the family is going through. Anytime you lose a life it is tragic but we have strong video evidence that suggests there was no foul play at any time by any of our deputies.”

The Santa Clara County Main Jail has been under intense scrutiny following the 2015 death of inmate Michael Tyree at the hands of three jail guards.

Since Tyree’s death, the sheriff's office has implemented several reforms including a new use of force policy, more cameras and mental health and crisis training. Lopez’s family is desperately seeking closure.

"If it was foul play or wasn't, we just want it better for other families so other families don't feel what my family
is feeling right now because that's not fair, it’s not fair to them,” said Escobedo. 

The medical examiner coroner's office said an autopsy report won't be released until Friday at the earliest. The family is meeting with prominent civil rights attorney John Burris Thursday. Burris told KTVU he is reviewing all the facts.