Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin has released a detailed statement about the Feb. 28 death of prisoner Alphie R. Herrera, Sr.
Martin reported the inmate apparently had a seizure, then had be to restrained because he kicked, bit and spit on corrections officers, then slipped into a coma-like state.
On Thursday, Martin announced the investigation into Herrera's death was closed and no criminal charges would be filed.
County detectives were assigned by Martin to investigate what happened, which Martin explained is done in all cases of death at the prison.
The district attorney said that investigation included interviews with corrections officers, as well as interviews with Herrera’s cellmate and inmates in adjoining cells.
Herrera, a 39-year-old inmate in Lehigh County Prison, had an apparent seizure in his cell at 6:13 p.m. Feb. 27.
"His body was shaking violently, and his cellmate was tending to him and attempting to keep him from injuring himself," explained Martin.
A Code Blue was called, and corrections officers arrived at the cell, reported the district attorney.
Herrera, who had been receiving medication for his seizure disorder in the prison, was lying on a lower bunk with his lower torso on the cell floor.
Two corrections officers were directed by a sergeant to place Herrera on the floor of the cell. Martin reported Herrera appeared to be coming out of the seizure, and was looking around and stated: “I didn’t do it. Am I in trouble?”
The corrections officers advised him that he was okay, but that he was having a seizure.
Medical staff was summoned to the cell. A registered nurse arrived, and attempted to calm Herrera.
But the prisoner became combative and started to kick his legs at staff, according to Martin. The nurse was attempting to apply smelling salts, but was unable to do so. A corrections officer was able to administer smelling salts. But Herrera continued to resist the staff's efforts to help him.
Officers were directed to secure Herrera in handcuffs, but Herrera continued to resist, and attempted to bite several of the corrections officers, according to Martin.
A one-second burst of pepper spray was applied but appeared to have no effect, according to Martin. Herrera continued to resist attempts to control him and continued to attempt to bite and kick staff. His legs were secured in leg shackles.
He was able to bite one of the corrections officers on the left hand, causing bleeding to that officer’s left middle finger.
A supervising officer ordered that a restraint chair be brought to the cell so Herrera could be secured and prevented from harming himself or staff.
As the prisoner was being secured on his side, he was able to bite another corrections officer on the right upper thigh. He also began spitting at corrections officers. The restraint chair arrived and Herrera was placed in a seated position on the chair.
Martin reported that Herrera continued to resist attempts to control him while he was being secured in the restraint chair and continued to spit. A spit hood was placed on his head, and he finally was restrained.
Medical staff began to evaluate him and escorted him in the restraint chair to the medical unit for further evaluation. Once Herrera was in the medical unit, staff began to check his vital signs, and he continued to fight the restraints.
While this evaluation was proceeding, his condition began to deteriorate, reported Martin, and the nurse directed the corrections officers to call 911 to have him transported to the hospital.
Shortly thereafter, said Martin, Herrera lost consciousness.
Allentown EMS arrived at the prison at 6:51 p.m. and transported Herrera to Lehigh Valley Hospital/Cedar Crest.
At the hospital, Herrera was in a coma-like state and his "hospital course was significant for hypotension, severe metabolic acidosis and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy."
He was pronounced dead at 11:00 a.m. Feb. 28.