A man who died in the Spokane County Jail Sunday morning was beaten earlier by officers, two witnesses said Monday.
Mario Lozada, 28, whose most recent address was 1907 W. Broadway, died less than 10 minutes after being placed in a holding cell about 6 a.m. Sunday.
Lozada had been at a small party late Saturday and early Sunday at an apartment in the Rose Apartments building, 1314 W. Maxwell. Ilene Brown and her fiance, Walter Stuckey, live in the apartment. They said they had known Lozada for four years.
“I believe police beat him to death,” Stuckey said. “I do believe that in my heart honestly. He wasn’t dead when he went outside to wait for police. He wasn’t dying.”
Brown said Monday that the group decided to call police after hearing a woman being assaulted by her boyfriend in another apartment.
Brown and Stuckey said they believe that police mistook Lozada for the man involved in the domestic violence complaint. Police said Lozada was extremely violent and attacked officers unprovoked.
Brown said she and Lozada waited for police in the alley behind the apartment building. Meanwhile, Stuckey waited with the woman who had been assaulted. Donald R. Bowen, 21, was later arrested on domestic violence charges.
In Bowen’s apartment, Stuckey said, he woke up Shane C. Smith and told him police were coming. Smith ran out the door and was arrested outside for resisting arrest and for outstanding warrants.
Brown said she went inside to get a coat. Stuckey walked outside, just after police had arrived. He said Lozada was being beaten.
“I saw one cop knee him in the side,” he said. “They were over there beating him.”
He ran inside and told Brown, who had just grabbed a leather jacket. They both ran outside.
“There were six policemen on him,” Brown said. “I believe up to four of them were hitting on him. For goodness sakes, it was messed up. They picked him up, face down, and carried him face down into a police car. They didn’t even know who the victim was. They go, ‘Oh, you’re the victim.’ I said, ‘No.”’
Police said Lozada attacked four officers. Five officers were needed to arrest Lozada, who continued to kick and fight police after being handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, according to the police and Spokane County Sheriff’s Department.
“He was extremely violent,” police spokesman Dick Cottam said. “I mean, extremely violent. He didn’t pay attention to any direction to stop resisting and not keep fighting. All this … about police beating him up - he was beating himself up, partly.”
Brown said Lozada wasn’t a violent man.
“All you could hear was Mario’s cries, ‘Quit, it hurts,”’ Brown said. “I was trying to tell them they got the wrong person. I said, ‘Quit, quit, please quit hitting on him.’ They said, ‘Shut up, Mario.’ They knew who he was.”
Police did know Lozada. He had been convicted 11 times, including three times for assault and for resisting arrest, malicious mischief and criminal trespass.
Once at the jail, Lozada was placed in an “emergency response belt,” a device that holds a person’s elbows next to his body. Lozada then was placed in a holding cell.
When officers checked on him less than 10 minutes later, Lozada didn’t appear to be breathing. He didn’t respond to cardiopulmonary resuscitation and was pronounced dead at 6:54 a.m. Sunday.
An autopsy is expected to be performed today.
“They don’t know what he died of,” Cottam said. “He could have died of a heart attack. He could have died of a drug overdose. He could have died of alcoholism, a half dozen things. This guy had medical problems.”
Lozada was diagnosed as HIVpositive about six years ago, said lawyer Carl Maxey, retained Monday by Lozada’s wife, Tina. Lozada also had cancer.
Despite the diseases, Lozada was in good shape, his friends said. Maxey plans to have a representative at Lozada’s autopsy.
Tina Lozada “retained us to see that her husband was dealt with fairly in death, if not in life,” Maxey said. Along with his friends, she “wanted to know all the facts. They’re not making wild accusations.”
Maxey also wants an independent investigating body, such as the Washington State Patrol, to help investigate Lozada’s death.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Department and the police are investigating the death. That’s standard protocol for deaths or severe injuries that could involve officers.
“It’s like nepotism,” Maxey said. “It’s like brothers investigating each other. We want to make sure it’s a fairly conducted process.”
Sheriff’s Lt. David Wiyrick said the protocol establishes rules for joint investigations that try to prevent unfounded accusations. He said the 23 people who started investigating the death Sunday were all professionals with many years of experience.
“There’s nothing to hide,” Wiyrick said. “If people feel there’s excessive force, we want to know about it. We’ll check out all leads. We have to have information to act upon.”