The state’s attorney’s office said they are reviewing a second autopsy that showed the death of a man in Round Lake Beach police custody was partially caused by “prone back pressure” applied by police.
Abel Rosiles Jr., 21, of Round Lake, died on June 18, 2020. A jury inquest ruled in October that Rosiles’s death was accidental due to “anoxic encephalopathy by choking on a plastic bag.”
Rosiles was taken into custody around 11 p.m. June 10, 2020, at Thornton’s gas station, 180 East Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach, after officers were called there for a report of a disturbance.
Police at the time said that an employee at the gas station pushed the panic button because a man was inside the store shouting and threatening him.
The employee called 911 earlier in the evening for the same issue but the suspect fled before police arrived.
The man, identified as Rosiles, was located walking out of the public restroom when officers arrived the second time. Rosiles was taken into custody for disorderly conduct without incident.
“As an officer was walking the offender to a squad car, he was able to get away, and he fled on foot approximately 30 feet. The arresting officer was able to take him back into custody and walked him back to the squad car which was parked at Thornton’s,” the Round Lake Beach Police Department said in a statement at the time.
Police officials said that officers at the scene noticed Rosiles was having trouble breathing. They asked the man if he was choking and he nodded that he was.
The Heimlich maneuver was attempted without success and Rosiles lost consciousness. The officers tried to clear the man’s airway but did not see anything in the back of his throat, police said.
Videos released from the incident showed numerous officers assisting Rosiles, who appeared to be unconscious, to the ground and removing his handcuffs.
The officers began providing first aid to the man, including administrating several doses of Narcan.
“He had something in his sock [that he] swallowed, don’t know what it is,” one of the officers told arriving paramedics, who can be seen in the video starting CPR on Rosiles.
Paramedics used a medical tool and extracted a large plastic baggie containing a white powder substance from deep inside Rosiles’s throat, police said. The powder substance later field tested positive for cocaine.
Rosiles was transported by ambulance to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville in critical condition and was pronounced dead days later.
Family members of Rosiles initially claimed that police brutally beat him and caused bodily harm while he was handcuffed.
“Police officers should not be allowed to be above the law especially when they commit violent crimes against young Latino men for no reason. Abel Rosiles was assaulted while handcuffed. We want Justice for Abel!” Julie Contreras of United Giving Hope said in a statement in June 2020.
“There is no evidence to believe he was beaten to death,” then-current Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper told Lake and McHenry County Scanner in June.
Dr. Michael Baden, a physician and forensic pathologist who is known for investigating high-profile deaths, was hired by Rosiles’s family to conduct a second independent autopsy.
Baden released the autopsy findings last week to the family.
“Mr. Rosiles was restrained using prone back pressure that interfered with his ability to breathe as described by civilian witnesses and captured on video,” Baden said.
“Unexplained is how his sock and a golf ball-sized object in an unmarked sandwich plastic bag had gotten into his mouth and throat while he was handcuffed behind his back minutes after a flashlight search showed his mouth to be empty,” Baden added.
Baden said that he believes the cause of death was “hypoxic brain damage caused by interference with oxygen going to his brain by prone back pressure and a plastic bag containing white powder in his mouth.”
Baden also said there should be further police investigation as to how the bag got into Rosiles’s mouth while he was in police custody.
The Lake County State’s Attorney Office told Lake and McHenry County Scanner they are reviewing the new autopsy results.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said he has met with the family of Rosiles and their attorney on more than one occasion to hear their views on the case.
Rinehart said the investigation by his office is active and ongoing and the findings will be announced publicly once it is complete.
“As with any ongoing investigation, the State’s Attorney’s Office has no further comment,” a spokesperson said.
Former Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd, who was not the coroner at the time of Rosiles’s death, said that Rosiles’s death was a homicide and claimed police, the coroner’s office and the state’s attorney’s office were covering up the case.
Contreras called the man’s death a murder and said she has sent a formal request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting a federal investigation.
Contreras and family members of Rosiles have called for the arrests and charges against the officers involved.