PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – On December 10, 2013, 39-year-old Ricardo Martinez went to the ER at UPMC Shadyside Hospital.
He died there after some type of altercation with a University of Pittsburgh Police officer and UPMC staff workers.
At the time of his death, his family couldn’t understand what happened.
“They restrained him OK,” said Martinez’s mother, “and my son just collapsed.”
No one close to the case would comment back then until the autopsy was completed. And that took months.
Tuesday, KDKA-TV learned Martinez died of asphyxiation due to restraint in a prone position. The medical examiner ruled his death was an accident.
“The best way to describe compressional asphyxiation for people in the greater Pittsburgh area, is to refer to the Johnny Gammage case,” said Forensic Pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. “What happens is that when you place somebody in a prone position, face-down, then the organs move up in the abdomen – especially if the person is somewhat heavy.”
At the time of his death, Pittsburgh Police reported Martinez was handcuffed on the floor and became unconscious, then turned on his back.
In response to the autopsy report Tuesday, UPMC said in a written statement:
“We are sorry for the Martinez family’s loss. UPMC’s clinical and security personnel worked at all times to respond appropriately to patient care needs and a difficult security situation.”
“This is a death that should not have occurred,” said Wecht. “These are deaths that are definitely attributable to the way in which a person is handled and you do not place somebody in that position.”