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A Family in Need of Answers

A closer look at brutal death in Davidson jail

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An Immigrant's View

A story in the January 7 edition of the Lexington Dispatch noted, "Carlos Claros-Castro, 28, of Liberty Drive, Thomasville, was pronounced dead at Lexington Memorial Hospital after a struggle with two detention officers, who were called into his cell to disarm him of a fiberglass mop handle at 8:52pm.

"Claros-Castro, who is originally from Honduras, was pulled over at 1:23am, Friday, Jan. 6, by Thomasville police officer Shawn Shoemaker for speeding. He was taken to jail and charged with driving while impaired, speeding and failure to report an accident, according to the arrest report."

Here's more on the incident from the Winston-Salem Journal: "Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said that two jailers were called Saturday night to disarm an out-of-control Claros-Castro, who had gotten hold of a fiberglass mop handle. Claros-Castro fell unconscious during a struggle with the jailers, but the exact cause is unknown."

Sheriff Grice is turning all questions about the Claros-Castro incident over to the State Bureau of Investigation. An autopsy will be performed on the body, but results may take several weeks.

It sounds like there are some loose ends in the story, right? Stuff that might be explained a little more in-depth, especially to Claros-Castro's family and friends. That's all his brother Jose Donaldo Castro wants, some explanations, because nobody is giving any. The sheriff, and everyone else, is just waiting on the autopsy results.

I spoke with Claros-Castro's brother, friends and his employer; they all spoke nicely of him, noting that he was a very hard-working, cool-headed young guy. He worked at the kitchen in a restaurant in Davidson County.

From the photos taken by family members of Claros-Castro after his death, he seemed to be a healthy, strong young man -- but with severe bruises on his head and arms, just like ones that might have formed after being clobbered with a couple of police batons.

He appears to have called a friend from jail, but the friend did not answer. The next morning, when told about the incident, his brother collected some money from friends in order to get him out. But when they arrived at the Davidson County jail Saturday night, it was too late.

"My brother was not a violent person, and it seems strange that he was attacking people with a mop handle," Jose Donaldo told me calmly. "It's not normal that you need many people to calm someone down, and it appears they beat him to death."

Claros-Castro's brother is now seeking a lawyer to navigate the complex American judiciary system in a case as delicate as this one. The Honduras consulate general in Atlanta has also offered to do everything in her power to help the family get some answers.

In the meantime, and regardless of the autopsy results, we have a jailhouse death that has been quieted; apparently, the media is not interested in making noise for one Hispanic who died because he couldn't take the beating.

More than a few non-Latinos are happy and even had the nerve to tell me. One person even stated while I explained the situation, "Well, that's the risk you take in coming to this country." At that point, I couldn't even get mad; I was just emotionally exhausted and really sad.

But now Hispanics are aware that, aside from taking low-wage jobs, living in measly conditions and generally being regarded as second- or third-class human beings, you can add sipping a few beers in Davidson County to their list of life-threatening risks.

Hernan Mena, a native of Mexico, is associate editor of the regional Hispanic weekly newspaper, Que Pasa.

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