RGC man who died in Starr Co. jail identified

A custodial death report says a 29-year-old Rio Grande City man who died at the Starr County jail last week stopped moving eight minutes after jailers conducted the last cell check before the man was rushed to the hospital.

Alberto Peña died on Aug. 13 after the Starr County Sheriff’s Office responded to 48 Fresno Circle in Rio Grande City after his father called police to complain that his son “was highly intoxicated and under the influence of drugs,” according to a probable cause affidavit.

Authorities booked the man into jail at 3:31 p.m. on a charge of criminal mischief, causing damage in excess of $100 but less than $750.

By 10:07 p.m., a doctor pronounced him dead and told authorities that a preliminary autopsy showed the man had cocaine, marijuana and alcohol in his system. The custodial death report says his cause of death was “cardio respiratory arrest while under the influence of mixed drugs and the manner of death as accidental with pending toxicology.”

The custodial death report filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office says when Peña was brought to the jail he was placed in a detox holding cell alone.

“During his stay Alberto was violent and uncooperative with jail staff. At one point while jail supervisor is trying to calm Alberto he hits himself on the cell door with his forehead,” the report states.

The shift sergeant and other jailers then entered the cell and tried to calm him, according to the Starr County Sheriff’s Office.

“Alberto becomes aggressive again and subsequently the shift sergeant in view of the camera places Alberto Peña in the Wrap Restraint System and sits Alberto in the roll cart for the Wrap,” the report states.

The jailers then placed Peña in front of the cell camera inside the detox cell.

“While Alberto is in the wrap he is constantly fighting the Wrap system and at 7:50 p.m. he manages to get himself out of the roll cart and makes his way to the cell door to kick it,” the report states.

Peña is then again placed in the restraints and asked to calm down, according to the sheriff’s office.

At 8 p.m. there is a shift change and nearly an hour later, at 8:50 p.m., staff bring his cousin, who was being held in a max cell down the hall, to try to calm Peña, who is still combative and fighting the restraints, authorities say in the report.

“Alberto made no outcry or notified the jail staff that of any medical distress or trouble breathing,” the custodial death report states.

The last cell check was at 8:53 p.m. and by 9:12 p.m., according to the report, Peña is not moving and a jailer “goes to the picket for backup.”

“Jail staff immediately remove Alberto from the roll cart and the wrap and start emergency first aid CPR. EMS and Fire respond to the jail within minutes and Alberto Peña is transported to the hospital where he is pronounced dead at 10:07 p.m. by the attending doctor,” the custodial death report states.

A review of the detox cell camera shows he stopped moving at 9:01 p.m., according to the report.

The Starr County Sheriff’s Office notified the Texas Rangers, who took over the investigation.

According to the probable cause affidavit for the man’s arrest, his father called authorities because his son “became rowdy and began causing damage to two doors.”

“Alberto Peña also caused damages to two sheetrock drywalls by punching his fist into the wall causing a hole,” the affidavit states.

The Starr County Sheriff’s Office initially notified the public of the custodial death early last Friday morning, saying on social media that the man’s identify would be released after his next of kin was notified.

The sheriff’s office provided its next update on Thursday, nearly a week later, informing the public of the man’s identity but saying no other information on the case would be released.

“At this time no other information will be released pending the outcome of Texas Ranger’s Investigation,” the agency said.