‘Code Blue’

Second man dead at Santa Fe County jail in two months

Another man has died at the Santa Fe County jail, this time of a possible drug overdose while the man was being held in a medical supervision unit, according to an incident report the sheriff’s office released to SFR on Wednesday.

Adrian Hern, 42, died Aug. 7, about 40 minutes after staff at the Santa Fe County Adult Correctional Facility noticed that he was “still,” sitting on a toilet and foaming at the mouth, the report reads, in part. Jail staff performed CPR for more than half an hour, but he was pronounced dead just before 4:45 pm.

Hern was in jail for about three weeks prior to his death. In early July, he was arrested in Santa Rosa and transferred to the Santa Fe jail on suspicion of two probation violations: possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance. Hern was on probation for a 2019 conviction for trafficking a controlled substance, and had been in and out of jail since 2000, mostly after misdemeanor arrests, including for DWI.

When he arrived at the Santa Fe jail, Hern told authorities he was a heroin user, according to the incident report. Days before his death, he tested positive for methamphetamine, opioids and Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid withdrawal.

Asked how the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, which investigates all deaths at the jail, believes Hern obtained drugs inside, spokesman Juan Rios replies in an email to SFR with a single word: “Illegally.” The sheriff’s office is not, however, investigating how the drugs made it into the jail, Rios writes in a follow-up email. He suggests SFR ask the jail, which is run by Santa Fe County.

County spokeswoman Carmelina Hart declined to comment on any investigations related to drugs in the jail, but says in an email that staff and inmates are “inspected” as they go in and out.

Just over two weeks before Hern was booked into the Santa Fe jail, a then-corrections officer was accused of smuggling Suboxone strips into the jail for a prisoner. Seth Christopher Flores is facing felony charges related to the incident, according to a story published by the Santa Fe New Mexican.

An official with the Office of the Medical Investigator went to the jail after Hern was reported dead, according to the incident report, but had not determined an official cause of death. OMI did not respond to SFR’s request for an autopsy or toxicology report.

Hern’s death is the second at the jail in two months. Torin Rocha, 31, died by an apparent suicide on June 10, according to a separate sheriff’s incident report.

Rocha appeared to have hanged himself with a bedsheet, according to the report. A full six minutes passed between the time when Rocha’s cellmate noticed the attempted suicide and tried to get the attention of jail guards and when guards came to the cell and began to cut Rocha’s body free.

New Mexico jails have a death rate slightly above the national average, according to a Reuters investigation.

Hern’s death played out under what should have been tighter supervision.

Sheriff’s deputies went to the jail at 4:15 pm on Saturday, Aug. 7 after jail staff called to say Hern was unconscious and not breathing, the sheriff’s incident report reads.

Jail nurse Rhianna Manzanares told a sheriff’s deputy that when Hern arrived at the jail on July 19, he disclosed that he was a drug user. On Aug. 4, Hern cut himself and was placed on constant and psychological watch.

On Aug. 5, he was drug tested after staff observed that he seemed to be intoxicated. That’s when they found drugs in his system, according to the report. He was cleared from constant watch that same day but remained on medical watch.

Corrections officer Joshua Ribeiro told a deputy that he was doing a cell check around 3:38 pm on Aug. 7 when he saw Hern walk to the toilet and sit down. When Ribeiro did another check at 4:05 pm, Hern was still on the toilet. Hern didn’t respond when Ribeiro knocked on the cell door, so Ribeiro went into the cell and walked up to Hern, whose body was “still, with his eyes open and white foam coming from his mouth.”

Ribeiro called “code blue,” signaling that he needed assistance from medical staff.

After Hern was declared dead, Sharon Gerena with the Office of the Medical Investigator arrived at the jail. She reported that there didn’t seem to be any signs of foul play, but noted a laceration on Hern’s hip. A jail doctor told Gerena it was possibly from a prior stab wound, and Gerena said it appeared to be “clean.”

Hern was born in Albuquerque and was a longtime resident of Anton Chico, according to a published obituary.

“Adrian was a very giving person to anyone in need,” his obituary reads. “He enjoyed fishing, raising his dogs, spending time with his family and he loved his children. He loved being outside, gardening, woodworking and mechanicing.”

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