A New Jersey man recently died in custody after pleading for water and coughing up blood — only to be met with staff laughing and joking while he was in distress.
Mario Terruso, 41, died at hospital in Pomona, New Jersey, about 1 a.m. after being transported there from the Atlantic County jail, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office which is investigating his death.
Terruso was then arrested on Sunday afternoon on a warrant and then held in the county jail in Mays Landing about 17 miles north of Atlantic City.
The jail revealed how the warrant was for failing to appear in court on a family matter.
Alan Wright states he was also an inmate at the jail at the time and that he has been friends with Terruso for 16 years. He recounted what he saw in a phone call to his wife who then wrote about it in a Facebook post on Tuesday prior to Wright being released from jail that evening.
“I told her to write exactly what I said over the jail phone,” Wright, 33, shared with NBC News.
Wright revealed how he needed to use the bathroom when he saw his friend in distress in a holding cell in the admissions area sometime around 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wright said Terruso was begging for water, stating he had swallowed something and that he then began to dry-heave uncontrollably.
“Nursing staff told me I couldn’t give him water and said he was faking,” Wright said.
Wright also said how staff stood outside of Terruso’s cell laughing as well as inquired if Terruso acted like that on the street, to which Wright said he told them no.
“He began throwing up blood and his clothes were dripping sweat,” Wright continued.
“Nursing stated he was being combative and was fine,” Wright said.
Officers attempted to calm Terruso down but he refused to comply and instead begged to be taken to the hospital.
“At that point, he was just not complying to staff and the sergeant ordered them to hog-tie him,” Wright said.
Wright recalled how over five officers tied Terruso’s hands and feet together.
“He just wanted help,” Wright said. “Medical said he was faking.”
According to statement made by the state attorney general’s office it is currently investigating Terruso’s death “including all actions taken by corrections officers and other staff at the jail leading up to and including his transportation to the hospital for treatment.”