A Galveston County deputy on Nov. 29 pushed Ariel Ledesma to the floor of a cell at the county jail. The push caused Ledesma to hit his head, an injury that landed him in a local hospital.
Ledesma died in the hospital on Dec. 14. The deputy, Sgt. Jonathan Wuneburger, has been on leave since Ledesma was hospitalized, and the Texas Rangers are investigating whether the deputy’s use of force amounted to a criminal act, officials said.
A custodial death reported obtained by The Daily News on Wednesday provided the first limited description of the incident that led to Ledesma’s injury and death. The report asserts Ledesma was attempting to escape when he was pushed.
The report summarizes the incident in three sentences.
“Staff was attempting to secure the inmate inside the cell by closing the door,” according to the report. “The inmate came towards the doorway, attempting to exit the cell. The inmate was pushed out of the doorway, resulting in him falling backwards, landing on his back/head.”
A different section of the report said that Ledesma was attempting to escape custody.
The report also asserts Ledesma didn’t assault, threaten or attempt to take control of a weapon during the incident.
Police agencies are required to submit reports to the attorney general’s office whenever a person in their custody dies. The report doesn’t determine whether Ledesma’s death was a homicide or an accident. Those determinations are still pending an autopsy, according to the report.
Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset on Wednesday confirmed the report, which was submitted to the state by Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kevin Walker, matched his understanding of the incident.
Trochesset declined to add more details about the incident, citing ongoing investigations by the Texas Rangers and the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office.
Ledesma was jailed Nov. 28 on one count of criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, Trochesset said. His bond was set at $1,000. He was accused of trespassing at a property in 1300 block of 39th Street in Galveston, according to court records.
Ledesma’s home address is about five blocks from where he was arrested, according to court records.
Wuneburger, 42, an eight-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, has been on administrative leave since Nov. 30, when Ledesma was transported to a University of Texas Medical Branch hospital, Trochesset said.
Phillip Rodriguez, an attorney representing Ledesma’s family, said the report was an admission by the sheriff’s office that Wuneburger caused Ledesma’s death. He called for authorities to release jail security video that shows the interaction between Wuneburger and Ledesma.
Rodriguez also asserted officials were stonewalling attempts to secure body camera video of Ledesma’s arrest in Galveston.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions; that’s really where we stand,” Rodriguez said. “It would be really helpful if they were transparent, but we’re not seeing that at the moment. I think that would bring closure and explanation to the family.”
Ledesma’s relatives haven’t filed a lawsuit over his death, he said.
Kathleen Zellner, a Houston attorney well-known for representing wrongfully convicted people, had come aboard to assist with the case, however, Rodriguez said.