Damages awarded in 1998 jail death

An alcoholic and often homeless, Eduardo Calzada lived his life on the margins of Charlottesville society. He lived in Central Virginia for 15 years, taking construction or handyman jobs around Charlottesville, periodically disappearing for long stretches to binge on alcohol. On his left forearm Calzada had his name tattooed in blue ink. He once told his girlfriend, “In case they find me dead someday, they’ll know who I am."

C-VILLE covered the story of the death of Eduardo Calzada in its February 1, 2000 issue. See "Marked Man."

In October 1998, Calzada did end up dead, on the floor of the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail.

Police picked up Calzada in front of the Hampton Inn on West Main Street. When they brought him to the jail, officers reported no blood or apparent injuries. Jail guards forewent a medical report, writing that Calzada was “combative,” though other reports have indicated he was passed out. Officers dressed him in a jail uniform, rolled him on his side, and locked him in a cell.

By 7:30am the next morning, Calzada was dead. Autopsy reports found brain hemorrhaging
consistent with severe head trauma and several bruises to Calzada’s face and arms. Though some surmised police brutality, it was never proven in court.

Co-counsel for Calzada’s estate, Deborah C. Wyatt, says being drunk is “a non-incarcerable offense… If they’re unconscious you take them to the hospital. You don’t take them to jail.” Calzada’s estate is also represented by Charlottesville attorney Neal L. Walters.

In a March 12 judgment, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret P. Spencer, subbing in the Charlottesville circuit, ruled that jail guards Phillip Barfield, Christopher Bibb, Asiberia Igbani, John Woodson and Jerome Hill, who all had contact with Calzada that night, should pay $250,000 in compensatory and $100,000 in punitive damages. Several other defendants, including Charlottesville police officers, are due in court this August.

Calzada’s former girlfriend, Crozet resident Karen Payne, is acting as personal representative for his estate. Damages awarded will go to Calzada’s two children or other family members.

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