SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — The Johnston County district attorney announced Friday no charges will be filed in the inmate death of Eric Cruz while he was behind bars in January 2021.
On Jan 19, 2021, at 9:47 p.m., inmate Eric Cruz was found unresponsive in his jail cell by staff members at the Johnston County Jail.
Jail staff members attempted CPR and EMS responded. Cruz was pronounced dead by EMS personnel around 10:30 p.m, officials said.
Cruz was incarcerated at the jail since Jan. 13, 2021, after he was arrested on outstanding warrants from Wake County and Selma Police Department, District Attorney Susan Doyle said in a release.
During the booking process, Cruz admitted to using cocaine and marijuana the night before his arrest. Cruz also stated that he took medication for high blood pressure and kidney disease, and was hospitalized the previous month for a drug overdose, according to the report.
Based on these comments, Cruz was placed on suicide watch and was checked on by jail staff every 15 minutes.
Jail staff attempted to schedule kidney dialysis appointments but were informed that Cruz had a history of noncompliance in the past. Staff learned that Cruz had only completed one out of 53 appointments for dialysis in the past six months despite being scheduled three times a week, the district attorney’s office said.
The day before Cruz’s death, a dialysis nurse informed Johnston County Jail staff that they would not see Cruz due to his previous behavior and for the safety and security risk to other patients.
While Cruz was in custody, medical staff continued to monitor his kidney functions. Staff also monitored Cruz’s vital signs, and all were normal expect for high blood pressure. Jail staff determined if Cruz deteriorated, he would be taken to the hospital for dialysis.
On Jan. 19, 2021, Cruz was removed from suicide watch and was placed on special watch. Staff checked on Cruz at 9:02 p.m., 9:15 p.m., and 9:36 p.m. and found Cruz doing well. At 9:47 p.m., jail staff found Cruz unresponsive and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, the report says.
An autopsy found that Cruz’s cause of death was hypertensive heart disease and the manner was natural.
After Cruz’s death, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation into Cruz’s death. Special Agent Taylor Purdie and Detective Blane Hicks conducted the investigation.
“After a thorough review of the NCSBI and JCSO investigative reports and several discussions with Detective Blane Hicks and Special Agent Taylor Purdie, I have concluded that this criminal investigation may be closed,” said Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle in a statement.
No criminal charges will be filed against any member of the Johnston County Jail staff related to Cruz’s death.