He was arrested on drug charges in Lancaster. Hours later, he was dead. His family wants answers

Woodland Hills, CA - June 19: Lawyer Brad Gage is joined by family members of Eugene Youngblood, who allegedly died in custody at the Lancaster jail, during a news conference to announce the filling of a damages claim at Brad Gage on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Woodland Hills, CA. According to a spokesperson, Youngblood entered detention as a healthy man in no apparent distress, but died four hours later without any explanation. Defendants have failed to produce jail videos and other documents. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Lawyer Brad Gage is joined by the family of Eugene Youngblood at a news conference in Woodland Hills on Wednesday, when they announced the filing of a damage claim over Youngblood's death while in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's custody. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Four hours after Eugene Wesley Youngblood was arrested earlier this month on drug charges, the 42-year-old man was found dead in the Lancaster sheriff's station jail.

Now his family is looking for answers, and say Youngblood was a healthy man with no underlying health issues. When he was taken into custody, his family said they were told he'd be cited and released within a few hours.

Instead, Youngblood died in his jail cell, and his family says authorities have offered no answers as to what happened.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement that the death is still under investigation, and that investigators so far have found no evidence that force was used by deputies when Youngblood was arrested, or while he was in custody.

"The Department thoroughly investigates each in-custody death for policy and procedure issues and assessment of care," the statement said.

On Tuesday, an attorney representing the family filed a claim against the county, and said sheriff's officials have ignored the family's request for body camera video, police reports and other information to piece together what happened to Youngblood while he was in custody. The claim does not cite a dollar amount but says the family is seeking "general, special and punitive damages."

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Brad Gage, an attorney representing the family, said family members have also learned of concerning details, including allegations that Youngblood had bruising on his face at the time of his death.

"He went into the Lancaster jail a perfectly young healthy young man and about four hours later he was dead," Gage said. "We don't know why he was dead."

According to the Sheriff's Department, a final autopsy report is pending.

Department records indicate Youngblood was arrested at about 5:30 p.m. on June 5.

Vanessa Larry, Youngblood's niece, said Wednesday during a news conference that she called the sheriff's station at about 9:30 p.m. that day, asking if she could pick up Youngblood's belongings.

The deputy she spoke to, however, told her there was no need for her to come to the station because her uncle in in custody for a misdemeanor and would probably be cited and released.

"He was already deceased," she said. "I found out the next day. They never even let me see his body. I just want justice for my uncle."

Gage and family members said Youngblood's family was told he was arrested on misdemeanor drug charges.

Online sheriff records, however, state Youngblood was booked on a felony charge.

In a statement, the agency said Youngblood was arrested on suspicion of possession of narcotics for sale.

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Youngblood was found unresponsive in his bunk at the Lancaster station jail by a deputy doing a routine security check, according to the sheriff's statement, and deputies administered two doses of naloxone until paramedics with the Los Angeles County Fire Department arrived. Naloxone is a medication used to reverse the effects of a possible overdose.

He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to sheriff's records.

Sheriff officials said an autopsy is still pending, but said there were no signs of trauma, or force being used, on Youngblood at the jail.

Gage and his family said there is no indication Youngblood was taken to a hospital.

"Our understanding is he went from the jail to the morgue," Gage said.

Larry said she was never given a reason why the naloxone was administered to her uncle.

Gage also said family members never saw Youngblood use drugs, and they had concerns regarding the bruising on his face that family members saw when they identified his body, "as if he had been punched in the face."

"He should not be dead at this point in time," Youngblood's sister, Gina Youngblood, said during the Wednesday morning news conference. "We just want answers."

Family members said Youngblood was also wearing jewelry and carrying a significant amount of cash when he walked out of Larry's home that day.

When they recovered his belongings, they said, jewelry appeared to be missing and less than $2 in cash was returned.

"I know he had more money because I seen him before he left the house," Larry said.

Sheriff's officials said personal property and evidence was collected in connection with the investigation, which is still ongoing.

Gage said the family is hoping to obtain deputies' body camera footage and reports and jailhouse security video to shed light on what happened to Youngblood that day.

"If you don't have the answers, you don't seem to get justice," he said, "and the family can't get peace."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.