Ernie Serrano, 33, of Jurupa Valley died after deputies used force to subdue him at a supermarket in Rubidoux on Dec. 15. An autopsy indicated a drug overdose led to a fatal arrhythmia while he was struggling with deputies, officials say.
"It's terrible, it's wrong. That was my son," said Maria Lowrie, Serrano's mother. "Do you know it hurts me to see him, and he's crying, and he's choking on his own blood and they still want to put a spit bag on him."
The story started the day before, on Dec. 14 when, according to Riverside Sheriff Chad Bianco, Serrano's own family called 911 saying he was "out of control."
"Once deputies arrived at the location, they found Mr. Serrano was belligerent, aggressive and showed obvious signs of being under the influence of drugs," Bianco said.
There was a scuffle and Serrano was arrested.
But because of state-imposed zero bail, he was released the next morning.
Later that night, Serrano showed up at the Stater Bros. in Rudidoux.
According to Bianco, 911 was called twice over the span of two hours saying Serrano was causing trouble and refusing to leave the store.
"Mr. Serrano's behavior was described as irrational and combative," Bianco said.
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Security guards are seen trying unsuccessfully to get Serrano to leave - even using pepper spray and a Taser.
Then Riverside County Sheriff's deputies arrived. One of them also fired a Taser.
Security cameras as well as cellphone footage captured the encounter.
"A second deputy then used his baton to strike Mr. Serrano in his arm and leg to gain compliance," Bianco said. "This was also ineffective."
Eventually, deputies were able to gain control.
But a few minutes later Serrano stopped breathing.
He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Preliminary autopsy results came out earlier this week.
"One major finding was that Mr. Serrano's lungs were about twice the size as normal, indicating a drug overdose," Bianco said.
"Preliminary findings - I repeat preliminary - indicate the cause of death was acute methamphetamine intoxication causing a fatal arrhythmia while struggling with deputies."
His family says even if there were drugs in Serrano's system, deputies should have known how to handle the situation in a way that didn't lead to his death.
"I don't care if he was on coke, meth, drinking, whatever it was," said his mother.
"You know how to go about it. You're trained for this. You're not trained to rush in and start hitting him."
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