Wrongful death suit: Fremont man, 20, dies after being chained to Santa Rita jail door

Christian Madrigal tried mushrooms on May 25, 2019 and his family said he was never the same. (Madrigal family)

Civil rights attorneys on Monday filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department over the in-custody death of a 20-year-old Fremont man whose family said was in the middle of a mental crisis brought on by psychedelic mushrooms. 

Parents Jose Jaime and Gabriela Covarrubias alleged that their son, Christian Madrigal, died in June after he was chained to an isolation cell door at Santa Rita Jail, a violation of protocol.

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In addition, when Madgrial showed up at Eden Hospital, his parents were told that he had tried to commit suicide by wrapping the chains he was restrained with around his neck, the suit states. Doctors also noted that Madrigal had bruises all over his body and had suffered a bruised lung and lacerated spleen and liver, the suit states. 

To date, Madrigal’s parents don’t know how he got these bruises or why he would have killed himself. 

The suit states that the sheriff has not provided the autopsy report, jail video or body camera video to the family. KTVU has also filed public records requests for these videos and documents and also has not received them. 

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A sheriff’s spokesman did not immediately comment on the suit. When Madrigal’s lawyers, John Burris and Adante Pointer, held a news conference in September announcing that they were filing a similar claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, Sgt. Ray Kelly said it is not the sheriff’s practice to comment on pending litigation. 

In addition,  Alameda County sheriff’s officials argued in a series of emails with KTVU that Madrigal’s case should not be counted as an in-custody death because he was let go on “compassionate release,” a policy that allows inmates to be released from custody, usually if they are dying and elderly.

Specifically, the suit names Lt. Craig Cedregen, who allegedly ordered Madrigal to be chained to the isolation cell door over the objection of deputies who eventually complied, the plaintiff’s attorneys allege. 

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Cedregren has been on leave since Madrigal’s death. As of Friday, the District Attorney’s Office said the investigation into Cedregren’s behavior was still “active” and no findings had been made. 

Madrigal’s stepfather, Jose Jaime, has previously told KTVU that Madrigal had been suffering some sort of mental breakdown after eating some psychedelic mushrooms on May 25.  

Jaime isn’t sure what happened, but he suspects Madrigal had some sort of psychotic break. The family had called Fremont police to put Madrigal in a 51-50, involuntary psychiatric, hold. Instead, police arrested Madrigal for allegedly being under the influence of an illicit drug. When Madrigal didn’t comply with orders at the Fremont jail, police took him to Santa Rita in a restraint, called a WRAP.

 According to the suit, Madrigal was supposed to be at Santa Rita for only a short time, and then he was supposed to be released to his parents. 

Madrigal remained on life support for a few days until he ultimately died.

Madrigal was one of  at least nine inmates to have died this year in Santa Rita Jail.