An attorney hired by the family of a man who died last week at the Santa Paula Jail said Tuesday that he will seek a court order if Santa Paula police do not release by the end of this week the deceased man's arrest report and other documents concerning the case.
But Santa Paula Police Chief Walter H. Adair said no such documents will be released until police complete their internal investigation. The investigation could take as long as two more weeks, he said.
"They can go to court and do whatever they want, but the documents will not be releasable until the investigation is completed," Adair said.
Police said Daniel Guajardo, 23, died last Tuesday in his cell of an apparent cocaine overdose, 10 hours after his arrest for being under the influence of the drug.
Guajardo's friends and family members have criticized Santa Paula police for allegedly letting Guajardo die without medical attention. Adair said last week that his officers followed proper procedure and had no way of knowing that Guajardo's life was in danger.
On Tuesday, Adair criticized community activist Gabriel Serrano--who last Sunday led a protest march of 100 people in front of the Santa Paula police station--for reportedly saying he has vital information about the Guajardo case, while refusing to elaborate.
"If any individual has evidence pertinent to this case, he should forward it to the proper authorities," Adair said. "If Serrano doesn't have any information, he should quit spreading rumors."
Adair said he was not troubled by the peaceful march. "I'm glad we live in a country where citizens can criticize their government," he said. "I think that's great."
Meanwhile, Ventura attorney Douglas Stenzel said he is investigating Guajardo's death for possible civil rights violations. In addition to requesting documents from the police, Stenzel said he had a private autopsy performed on Guajardo's body last Saturday by San Bernardino County Coroner Irving Root.
Stenzel said he will decide whether to pursue legal action against the police officers once he completes a series of witness interviews, reviews police records and receives the autopsy reports from Root and the Ventura county coroner's office--a process that could take weeks.
As for the county coroner's preliminary determination that Guajardo died of a drug overdose, Stenzel said: "As far as I'm concerned, that's mere speculation. Until we receive the autopsy and toxicology reports, anything the police or coroner say appear to be just that."
County Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Ronald O'Halloran said his preliminary cause-of-death determination was based on "the absence of any other cause of death" and Guajardo's alleged history of drug abuse.