Eugene Police are investigating the case of a 34-year-old male, who was found critically injured after transport in the back of an EPD patrol vehicle on January 30, 2019. Michael Amador Sanchez, age 34, of Eugene, sustained life-threatening injuries after a routine medical clearance transport from Hwy. 99 to University District Hospital.
“This is a tragic circumstance for Mr. Sanchez and for his family,” said Chief Chris Skinner. “We and our transporting officers are shocked and deeply saddened. You never expect a quick, seemingly routine transport to turn out this way. The vehicle’s travel was smooth without crashes or abrupt stops. We will continue to look into how this occurred and remain concerned for Mr. Sanchez’s wellbeing and for his family.”
Police were initially called at 5:20 a.m., January 30, to 2200 W. 6th Avenue for a fire at the location, with flames near Coastal Farm and Home Supply’s building. According to Eugene Springfield Fire, there was a wheelbarrow on fire and an individual, later identified as Sanchez standing nearby. The flames were described as being upwards of two-feet tall and approximately 10 feet from the building. The fire was extinguished by Eugene Springfield Fire. During ESF’s response, Eugene Police were called, as Sanchez, the suspect, was reported on scene.
Sanchez left the scene northbound on Hwy. 99 as police officers responded. He was contacted at 5:38 a.m. on the Hwy. 99 overpass. Officers noted he had blood on his hands and face and his jacket was singed. Sanchez was arrested for Reckless Burning without incident.
Officers determined that due to his pre-existing injuries, Sanchez would be taken to University District Hospital for medical clearance before being lodged at the Lane County Jail. While on the ground outside the car, Sanchez started to bang his head against the ground and a sergeant had to grab his hair to prevent him from continuing. Mr. Sanchez went limp when officers went to put him in the patrol vehicle but after he began kicking at officers his ankles were placed in a flexible restraint device (FRD) to prevent injuries to himself and officers. He was placed into the patrol vehicle seat lying on his back for transport to the hospital for medical clearance.
Sanchez was not buckled into a seatbelt due to his combative nature, which is allowed by EPD policy, which reads, “Prisoners should be transported with a seat belt properly secured unless the safety of the custody, or officers may be compromised by securing the seat belt. Exceptions may include prisoners who are combative, spitting, hobbled, or unable to wear the seat belt as designed.”
During the transport from Hwy. 99 to University District Hospital, Sanchez was slowly moving around, including rolling somersault-like and spinning in the backseat. On several occasions he was inverted, with his feet near the vehicle’s roof. He was not talking or asking for assistance. During this, he was able to remove the FRD and he continued to roll, twist, and move intermittently. At some point, Sanchez came to rest in the foot well of the vehicle with a shirt up around his upper body and head. It appears Sanchez, even though handcuffed, was able to place a seatbelt around his neck. Passenger seatbelts in a patrol vehicle are different than in personal vehicles. They come out from the middle of the seat and the buckles are opposite from where they would normally be. There is no retracting mechanism. The belt, when not in use, is attached to the prison compartment barrier by a magnet.
After arrival at the hospital, the shirt was moved and Sanchez was discovered unresponsive with the seat belt wrapped around his neck. He was freed and carried inside the hospital for treatment. He was resuscitated and is currently undergoing treatment. His family has been notified.