Death of immigrant in custody probed

Peter Reuell

Two investigations have been launched into what caused a 25-year-old Framingham resident to die Tuesday, more than a week after falling ill while in state police custody.

Maxsuel Medeiros, 25, died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Troopers arrested the native of Brazil on Aug. 31 in Andover.

The Framingham resident was believed to be riding in the passenger seat of his car when it was stopped by troopers, state police spokesman Lt. Barry O'Brien said yesterday.

Medeiros was arrested on two warrants for failing to appear in Framingham District Court, first in February 2006 and later in August of this year.

The two warrants charged him with driving without a license. One also included charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana and failure to stay in marked lanes. The second warrant also charged Medeiros with possession of prescription medication, possession of marijuana and attaching improper license plates to a vehicle.

Following the arrest, Medeiros was taken to the Andover barracks of the state police, where he was placed in a cell. Sometime after 9 p.m., nearly four hours later, officers noticed he was ill.

"They contacted an ambulance," O'Brien said. "He was transported to Lawrence General Hospital, and subsequently to that, he was transported to Boston."

Although he was treated for more than a week, Medeiros died at about 6 a.m. Tuesday, said Stephen O'Connell, a spokesman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

"We would conduct, as in any case like this, an administrative investigation," O'Brien said yesterday. "At the same time, the DA's office is conducting a review of their own."

O'Brien refused to speculate about how long the investigations might take.

"We'll review all the police reports in conjunction with the medical records, and an autopsy is going to be conducted," O'Connell said. "It's protocol that we investigate the death of any person, whether in, or having been in, police custody."

Medeiros' death is the second time an immigrant died in police custody in just over a month.

In early August, Edimar Alves Araujo, 34, of Milford died shortly after being turned over to federal authorities by Woonsocket, R.I., police.

Although family members claimed Araujo's death could have been prevented if they had been allowed to give the man his epilepsy medication, police say Araujo was not denied any care.

The cause of death in the case is still pending, and could be released shortly, said Andrea Bagnall Degos, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health.

The two deaths, however, have raised eyebrows among some civil rights groups, particularly the ACLU of Massachusetts, which yesterday said it will closely monitor the investigations into Medeiros' death.

"It remains to be seen whether the appropriate state agencies...are going to conduct a thorough investigation," said ACLU attorney Anjali Waikar.

"There are a lot of concerns we have, specifically about the basis for this stop, in addition to the arrest itself. I think this situation deserves intense scrutiny."

Peter Reuell of The MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News can be reached at 508-626-4428 or preuell@cnc.com.