Parents of inmate killed at Fresno County Jail file wrongful death suit against county, sheriff's office

By Asia Mayfield | Oct 5, 2018

FRESNO – A deceased inmate’s parents are suing Fresno County and the County Sheriff’s Office in a wrongful death suit over allegations that their son’s death was a result of negligence.

They allege the defendants failed “to properly care for persons who are in its custody.” 

The complaint was filed on Sept. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Fresno Division. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial.  

Plaintiffs Carlos and Anna Herrera are the parents of Lorenzo Herrera. On March 24, the suit states Lorenzo was killed inside his cell at the Fresno County Jail. The 19-year-old was strangled to death. The Herreras allege that Lorenzo’s death was caused by failures in the jail.  

The complaint notes that “the jail that Mr. Herrera found himself in after his arrest was dangerously understaffed and contained violent inmates who should have been—but were not—housed in maximum security conditions. The guards who were tasked with protecting Mr. Herrera were woefully undertrained. And violent inmates were allowed to roam freely...” 

The jail is outfitted with multiple cameras but Lorenzo’s death wasn’t captured, the suit states. Jail authorities still do not know who killed him, the suit states.  

The plaintiffs also allege that Lorenzo wasn’t treated for a painful condition that was exacerbated during the booking process. He allegedly was only offered an ibuprofen to deal with his pain.  

According to the plaintiffs, jail staff knew that the inmates were housed in dangerous conditions. The official 2013 county assessment found that “the dormitory-style, low-security facilities were inadequate to house this violent inmate population,” the suit states.

The suit states the county agreed to a plan to increase its jail officer staff in 2015 to settle a separate lawsuit. The plan required the county to hire at least 127 extra correctional officers within three years. 

"The deadline for compliance with the consent decree is approaching rapidly, but on information and belief, the county has not come close to meeting this requirement," the suit states.

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