SMITHFIELD – Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle announced Friday the conclusion of an investigation into the death of an inmate at the Johnston County Jail. Doyle said no criminal charges against any member of the Johnston County Jail still will be filed related to the incident.
On January 19, 2021 at 9:47pm, Eric Cruz was found unresponsive in his jail cell by staff members at the Johnston County Jail. Jail staff attempted CPR efforts and Johnston County EMS responded and continued CPR efforts. Cruz was pronounced dead by EMS at 10:30pm after resuscitation efforts by paramedics were unsuccessful.
Cruz had been incarcerated in the jail since January 13, 2021, after he was arrested on outstanding warrants from Wake County and the Selma Police Department. During the booking process, Cruz allegedly admitted to consuming alcohol and marijuana the night before. Cruz also indicated that he took medication for high blood pressure and kidney disease, and that he had been hospitalized the previous month for a drug overdose.
Based upon the comments, Cruz was placed on suicide watch and checked every 15 minutes as required by the Administrative Jail Codes related to supervision of inmates by jailors.
District Attorney Doyle said Johnston County Jail staff attempted to schedule kidney dialysis appointments for Cruz at Fresenius (Johnston Dialysis) but were informed that Cruz had an extensive history for noncompliance concerning dialysis treatments in the past at Fresenius. Cruz had only completed one out of 53 appointments for dialysis sessions in the past six months even though he was scheduled three times per week.
On one occasion, Cruz came to dialysis and related that he had ingested cocaine. As a result, Fresenius staff called EMS to take Cruz to the hospital. Fresenius employees also relayed instances where Cruz came to their facility and ingested cocaine and smoked marijuana in the lobby of their facility, the District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
On January 18, 2021, a registered nurse from Fresenius informed Johnston County Jail staff by fax that Fresenius would not see Cruz because of previous behavior at their facility and the safety and security risk to other patients. The communication was approved by a doctor at Fresenius.
Throughout the time that Cruz was in custody at the Johnston County Jail, medical staff members continued to monitor his kidney functions and observed good urine output. Medical staff also monitored Cruz’s vital signs, noting that all remained normal except for high blood pressure. Jail staff determined that if his vital signs deteriorated, Cruz would be taken to the hospital for dialysis.
Cruz was removed from suicide watch on January 19, 2021 and placed on special watch. Jail staff conducted checks on Cruz at 9:02pm, 9:15pm, and 9:36pm and found him to be well during all those checks. At 9:47pm, jail staff found Cruz unresponsive and efforts to resuscitate him were not successful.
An autopsy conducted as part of the investigation at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office concluded Cruz’s cause of death was hypertensive cardiovascular disease. His manner of death was ruled due to natural causes.
“After a thorough review of the NC SBI and JCSO investigative reports and several discussions with Detective Blaine Hicks and Special Agent Taylor Purdie, I have concluded that this criminal investigation may be closed. As a result, no criminal charges against any member of the Johnston County Jail staff will be filed related to this incident,” District Attorney Doyle said.