Diabetic man with dementia dies in jail after arrest for intoxication -- but no drugs or alcohol found in his system
Jennifer Schmidt and Gilbert Gil. (KFMB-TV)

A California man with serious health problems died in a San Diego jail after his second arrest in three days for being intoxicated, but his daughter said he had diabetes and dementia.

Gilbert Gil lay dead in a jail cell for 15 hours after his second arrest in February, and daughter Jennifer Schmidt said the sheriff's department still hasn't provided any details about his cause of death and the medical examiner hasn't issued a report or surveillance video, reported KFMB-TV.

The sheriff's department issued a news release Feb. 15 announcing Gil's death, saying he had been arrested three days earlier for driving under the influence of drugs and then the following day for being under the influence of a controlled substance, and investigators claimed an autopsy showed a presumptively positive for methamphetamine.

Schmidt, however, said her 67-year-old father had been acting erratically for months due to his dementia, so she placed a tracking device on his keys and saw he had traveled miles from home on Feb. 12 and drove to the scene of a car accident in the same location, where she found him handcuffed by deputies.

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"I'd never seen him like that," Schmidt said. "I had never seen him that way. He was shaking and moving his head and he couldn't really talk, but he was like, just confused, really confused."

She checked his abdomen for marks from his insulin shots, but didn't find any, so she suspects his behavior was related to both his diabetes and dementia, and Schmidt said deputies still believed he was intoxicated the following morning in jail until she explained his condition to a nurse, and he was released a short time later.

"He was ten times worse than when they arrested him," Schmidt said. "He couldn't hold a conversation. He couldn't answer any questions. I finally got him into the car and brought him to my house. My daughter had to give him her sippy cup because he couldn't even hold a bottle of water."

Schmidt took him that afternoon to the home he shared with his brother and nephew and she left a few hours later, and her cousin called that evening to say he'd called 911 because Gil was confused and agitated, but police took him to a nearby hospital instead of an ambulance.

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"A nurse pulled me aside, [and] she's like, 'He's under arrest, that's why we can't tell you anything,'" Schmidt said. "The next day I'm looking for his name in jail. I called and they would not give me any information. This was on Valentine's Day. I called probably 50 times they would not tell me anything. I found out that morning that he was gone."

Schmidt believes the sheriff's department is covering up her father's cause of death.

"I called the sheriff when I found out, and he asked me if my dad told me about being in a fight in jail," she said. "I said no. Then he asked if my dad mentioned how the deputies were treating him. I said, 'Why are you asking me this?' He's like, 'Routine.' I saw his body a few days later, and I knew why the deputy was asking me those questions. He had a huge mark that went back into his hair on his forehead.."

Schmidt eventually turned to both Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Campaign and the Autopsy Initiative, which conducted its own examination that showed Gil did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system, and a preliminary autopsy shows he did not have any heart-related issues or evidence of dying from COVID-19.

The third-party autopsy did find that Gil's toes and fingers had turned blue from a lack of oxygen, which suggests he died from asphyxiation.

Schmidt has filed a $25 million wrongful death complaint against San Diego County, and California lawmakers have introduced the Saving Lives in Custody Act, which would improve training and require health evaluations and additional safety checks at jails.

"Everybody knows what I'm thinking about," she said. "Nobody will even talk to me about it because I start crying or I get angry. I just keep saying it's not fair, it's just not fair. I mean, it shouldn't happen to anybody. I don't care what you're on or what you're doing, it just should not happen. To be cold, alone in a jail cell, just left naked and dead."