The Truth Must Be Told: The In-Custody Death of Raymond Eacret

Tiny - Posted on 01 December 2015

Raymond Eacret, 34 yrs old, a proud Yurok Tribal Member from Trinidad Rancheria, of Eureka, CA, died “in custody” in the Humboldt County Correctional Center (Jail) on Friday, June 26, 2015.  Raymond was being held on a misdemeanor charge and was due to be released that evening. Something went horribly wrong just hours after his mother, Sheila Eacret, received the message telling her 'not to worry and charges were dropped,' that her son was being released around dinner time, 4pm in fact, that very day.  Relief turned to deep sorrow, grief and outrage. The next time Sheila would see her son it would be after his death, framed as a “suicide” by Humboldt County officials, his lifeless body bludgeoned.

[image description:  An earlier days school photograph of Raymond Eacret, he is wearing a white shirt and there is a standard blue school-photo background.  Raymond is fair-skinned with his long hair pulled back with a cool, pronounced hairline.  He does not smile, looks very sweet, and has a thin mustache.]

“I was refused to see my son until after the autopsy which was against all Native rights, I had every right to prepare him spiritually due to his being Native American with a roll number. Denied that right, I was angry and confused,” said Sheila Eacret, Raymond's mother.

A number of conflicting reports have surfaced, including the police narrative, which has been amplified via most news outlets, so it is the most accessible information.  Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey said in a press release that Raymond was found by an (unnamed) Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Correctional Deputy (CD) “hanging from a makeshift noose that was wrapped around his neck” while being housed in the medical section of the Humboldt County Jail.  There is already a conflicting report that another officer had said Raymond was laying in his bed when he was discovered dead.  Another person who was in the medical department at the time Raymond was brought there told Sheila Eacret that there is “no way someone could take their own life in medical.”  That person also said that when Raymond was brought to medical he had been horribly beaten, and that he was unconscious.  The Sheriff's press release says that “life saving efforts were immediately initiated,” and basically that Humboldt County is investigating itself on this matter.  “This incident is currently under joint investigation by the HCSO and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO),” the press release reads.  

When Sheila Eacret was finally able to see her son Raymond, she was horrified.  Raymond was covered in bruises, he had two black eyes and his nose was broken.  His torso appeared as if it had been kicked multiple times.  Raymond's body appeared to be broken, his back broken, Sheila described ribs that stuck out with swelling around the wounds the “size of a watermelon.”  There was a cut about three inches deep in the neck of Raymond Eacret, and whatever it was that caused this deep cut, that was used to strangle him, did not go all the way around his neck.  Raymond's ear was bleeding and bruised.  Raymond was clearly the victim of a horrible, violent assault.


[image description:  Raymond Eacret in the comfort zone of Home, wears a wide brimmed baseball hat with a skull on it, he has a mustache.  He is looking at the camera and has a land line telephone at his ear, with his arm around a beautiful baby.  The baby leans slightly back and looks curiously at Raymond.]

“Our Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, the County Jail and Coroner's office are one in the same, they run all three, they are in it together,” said Shelia Eacret.  She continues, “So to get any kind of justice or truth you have to get at least one (entity) away from here.”  

Sheila took pictures of her son's injuries and demanded for an independent autopsy and secured a lawyer.  She is fighting for justice so that no other mother has to go through what she is experiencing.  She doesn't believe the Humboldt County system should be investigating itself.

“My son wasn't the first young Native American to mysteriously be hung in this jail and die, there was a 25 yr old Native American from Hoopa that was also killed in there on a misdemeanor and was going to get out.  Our system is flawed and allows authorities and deputies to kill anyone in that jail and get away with it. I think officers should have to obey the same laws they are suppose to uphold and should be held accountable for Murder like anyone else. A badge and key does not give them the right to take someone's life. They will be held accountable for this crime.”

[image description:  A long banner celebrating the Yurok People, with beautiful water in the background. On the left is a round emblem of the Yurok, fishing is championed with a boat and fish. The words THE YUROK TRIBE are in all caps.]

That 25 year old Native brother from Hoopa is a Yurok man named James "Hans" Peters, who was brought in to Humboldt County Jail in late June 2007.  Sheriffs say in August 2007, James Hans Peters was being held in a solitary cell, that he had “assaulted a correctional officer” and that he was waiting to be transferred to Napa State Hospital for a court ordered psych eval. Sheriffs say that on August 29, 2007 James Hans Peters “hung himself with torn bed sheets” from a vent in the ceiling. Officers did not inform Hans’ (he was called Hans by those close with him) family of his death. Later, after hearing the news from an anonymous hospital employee, the family went to the Humboldt County Jail in search of their son and demanding answers.  Sheriffs responded sternly and threatened to have the family arrested.  Hans’ mother and relatives were not allowed to see Hans' body for over 20 hours.  James “Hans” Peters was killed/died in custody in Humboldt County Jail within three months of two other victims, Peter Stewart and Martin Cotton.  All three men Disabled, all with diagnosed mental illness.

Raymond Eacret is one of many Loved Ones to die to in the United States to police terror in this way, to die violently and “in custody.” On July 13, 2015 a 24 year old pregnant Lakota Woman and mother of two named Sarah Lee Circle Bear was being held in Brown County Jail in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and was complaining of excrutiating pain.  She was denied medical care, told “quit faking,” and her body was dragged to a holding cell so officers and other inmates would not hear her screams.  She died shortly after.  In November 2015 it was released that, so far, in 2015, there have been at least 550 in custody deaths in Texas alone.  Five hundred and fifty human being people, just in the state of Texas.  One of those 550 people managed to make it to the forefront of national media.  Just one, and she was a woman.  She died the same day as Sarah Lee Circle Bear, on July 13, 2015.  And she was Black.  Her name is Sandra Bland.  


[image description:  "Ramond Eacret 2015" is lovingly chalked in purple chalk with a heart around it alongside other Loved Ones lost to police violence at SOMArts Día de los Muertos Exhibition as a part of the Idriss Stelley Foundation altar room There Are Few Angels That Sing.  A black dog lays on the sidewalk, which also reads NO MORE IN CUSTODY DEATHS.]

Raymond Eacret's violent death also happens within a greater context of in-custody deaths caused by law enforcement in the state of California.  Deaths like 23 year old Victoria Arellano, an HIV-positive Transgender woman and migrant from Mexico, who had been detained at a mens Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in May of 2007 in South Los Angeles.  Victoria started showing signs of illness and pleaded (along with other male detainees) that she receive medical care.  That much needed medical care was denied, and Victoria died on July 20, 2007.  There's also the recent mysterious in-custody deaths of Kristen Hamilton, 51, of Antioch who died in West County Jail in April 2015 and Elizabeth Gaunt, 56, of Santa Rosa who died at Lake County Jail in August of 2015.

Almost every single victim of in-custody deaths in California, and nationwide, have at least one of these things in common:  being Indigenous, Black, Disabled and/or Poor.  Recently the Idriss Stelley Foundation organized an action called #IdidDIEinSanFranciscoCustody which included formal demands for the treatment of Disabled detainees and demanded transparency regarding recent in-custody deaths, mostly bringing to light cases at San Francisco County Jail.  One of many demands being NO MORE IN CUSTODY DEATHS.  Within the past two years (mid 2013-mid 2015), the ISF has advocated for the families of and investigated into the violent wrongful in custody deaths of five men, Alvin Hayes, Alberto Petrolino, Antolin Marenco, Brette Robinson and Darnell Benson.  All five are Disabled, and each are Indigenous, Black and or Poor.  These violent deaths are far from isolated, and they are all related.  



[Loved Ones lost to police violence are chalked on the steps of San Francisco City Hall in October 2015 as a part of a national call to action to end police brutality.  A dog's black paw rests on the top of a blue heart that reads RAYMOND EACRET.  To the right is a pink heart that reads Yuvette Henderson.  Below that a green heart that says Ohlone People.]

Since the death of her son Raymond Eacret, Sheila Eacret has been grieving.  She has also taken a stand, she is demanding justice so that no other Mother has to experience what she is going through.  In being vocal in a rural area, Sheila is being harassed and terrorized by members of law enforcement in and around Eureka, CA.  She is being profiled, singled out and threatened for fighting for justice for her son.  The press and police in it together, villianizing her family.  One of the officers acknowledged knowing her son, Raymond, as a scare tactic.  Raymond's Mother, Sheila Eacret, who is grieving the loss of her son, fears for her life.  She does not feel safe.


A memorial service is set for Raymond Eacret in Eureka, CA on December 5, 2015 and is open to the public.


Justice for Raymond Eacret


Raymond Eacret, Loved One lost to police violence.


#Justice4RaymondEacret  #JusticeforRaymondEacret  #NativeLivesMatter

#IdidDIEinCustody   #iDidDIEinSanFranciscoCustody  #nomoreincustodydeaths

#IdrissStelleyFoundation  #DisabilitySolidarity  #DisabilityJustice


Update: Raymond Eacret's memorial service is being held at 1 Marina Way in the Wharfinger Building at the Eureka Public Marina in Eureka, CA from 1:00 to 5:00 on Saturday December 5th, 2015 and all are welcome to attend.


Lisa Ganser is a white Disabled genderqueer artist living in the Mission District of San Francisco.  They are the daughter of a momma named Sam and this is their first story as a writer for Poor Magazine.


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