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Agencies find no blame in
jail death of Professor Sam See

Two internal reports—one by New Haven police, the other by the Connecticut Judicial Branch—have found no wrongdoing in the treatment of Sam See, the Yale assistant professor who died in jail last November.

There is "no evidence to suggest officers violated any departmental rules or general orders," a police Internal Affairs report concludes. Similarly, the Judicial Branch investigation found "no evidence" of "negligence or inattention by Judicial Marshal Services staff," who run the lockup where See died of a drug-induced heart attack.

An assistant professor of English at Yale since 2009, the 34-year-old See was a "brilliant and generous" scholar and teacher, according to his colleagues, students, and friends. But he suffered from mental and physical health problems leading up to his death early on the morning of November 24.

The two reports, released late last month, provide some new information about those struggles.

The Internal Affairs report says that "See has had numerous Police contacts regarding mental health issues and, according to [his husband], has been admitted several times for psychiatric evaluations." In fact, the arrest that led to See's detention was the second police visit to See's apartment on Saturday, November 23.

The first visit came around 3:30 am. See called for medical help, saying that his husband was "hearing voices and seeing things." The responding officers and medics thought the husband seemed fine; the police incident report notes that "it was Sam who had the history of mental illness, but he also appeared alert and oriented."

Police also noted that had each spouse was subject to a protective order, telling each man to stay away from the other. A court issued those earlier in the fall, after a domestic dispute in which both men were arrested. See told the police "he did not feel safe" with his husband present, so the husband agreed to leave for the night. Despite the mutual protective orders, the police left without make any arrests, "because there was no threat of violence."

They returned to the apartment around 5:15 that afternoon, this time called by See's sister—who lives in California—"reporting that her brother was in a domestic dispute with his husband and that there was a protective order in place," the police report says. Three officers responded.

See seemed to be "going through some sort of mental health crisis," one of the officers said: he "was pacing around," his "eyes wide" and "pretty fidgety." He escorted the husband outside, where the man told the officer that See hadn't slept in four or five days and had not taken psychiatric medication that he needed.

Inside the apartment, See told police that his husband "was not supposed to be there" and that "he wanted us to arrest him," a second officer says.

When the police pointed out that See was also subject to a protective order, he "became enraged," they say, and resisted arrest, falling against the corner of a wall and cutting his forehead. Police charged both spouses with violating the protective orders. See, who allegedly fought with officers, was also charged with interfering with police and threatening.

See was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he received stitches over his eye. Then police took him to the lockup facility at police headquarters, which is run by the Judicial Branch.

According to that agency's report, See appeared alert and oriented. One judicial says marshal "he didn't look well." But all those interviewed agreed that See never said he was sick or asked for medical attention.

"He was very polite, unlike anyone else," one marshal said.

Around midnight, See's mother called the lockup, "saying Mr. See has medical and psych issues that he takes medication for," the report says. Told that she was welcome to bring him medication, she explained that she was in California and that she would try to get a nurse to bring it to the jail.

The marshals say they checked on See and other inmates every 15 minutes. He was awake for most of the night. By early morning, he was asleep. But when a marshal arrived with food at 6 am, he couldn't rouse See. Marshals and paramedics tried to revive him with a defibrillator and CPR, but couldn't get his heart started.

In January, the medical examiner reported that See died of a heart attack caused by “acute methamphetamine and amphetamine intoxication."


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Sam See, New Haven police
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