Report released in San Benito man’s jail death

Metro Creative

A custodial death report was released in the case of a man who committed suicide in the custody of the San Benito Police Department in late November.

According to reports based on a press release three days after the incident, Ernesto Alfonzo Gonzalez, 34, was found unresponsive in the San Benito Jail at around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 23.

A summary of the incident included in the custodial death report posted by the Texas Attorney General’s office on Friday clarified that Gonzalez was arrested for theft of less than $2,500 with two previous convictions at 4:28 p.m. on Nov. 22.

The man was held in the San Benito Jail while awaiting arraignment on the charges. According to the report, Officer Rodney Serna went into the jail area to speak with Gonzalez, who was requesting medication, at around 10 p.m.

The document stated that the officer asked Gonzalez if he had medication “in his property”. Gonzalez allegedly answered “no” and told Serna that he just wanted a phone call. According to the summary, the man was not granted a phone call as he had already been given one prior to his placement in the cell.

Nearly 5 hours later, at 2:55 a.m., an officer named Manuel Cisneros entered the jail area to take a bathroom break and conduct a jail check. When he walked past Gonzalez’s cell, he found that Gonzalez had wrapped his own shirt around his neck and was hanging from a rail in the cell, the report stated.

The summary stated that Cisneros immediately notified the patrol supervisor. Both Cisneros and Officer Jose Benavides, who arrived to assist, cut the shirt and assisted Gonzalez to the ground. Cisneros stated that Gonzalez was limp and cold to the touch.

According to reports based on the police department’s press release, attempts to revive the man failed. The death was officially recorded as having occurred at 3:12 a.m. on Nov. 23.

An evaluation by a medical examiner to determine cause of death is currently pending, although the manner and means of death were listed as suicide by hanging and strangulation.

Gonzalez was listed as having no pre-existing medical condition and that the cause of death was accidental injury, intoxication, suicide, or homicide.

In the report, authorities answered “no” to a section asking if Gonzalez appeared intoxicated, made suicidal statements, exhibited any mental health problems, or exhibited any medical problems.

Investigators said in a statement that no foul play was suspected.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Texas Rangers.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com