Family, friends protest outside jail after death of man being held on misdemeanor

The family of Fresno man Lorin Kane Sr. says he spent his life working with wood, first as a cabinet maker, then whittling at home when he became disabled about six years ago.

In this undated photograph Lorin Kane Sr. enjoys time with his daughters Elida Gonzales, left, and Lisa Kane, right. Special to The Bee

On Monday, his family and friends protested outside the downtown Fresno County Jail after learning he died unexpectedly Aug. 1 in a pre-booking cell there. He was 57.

They are blaming the Fresno Police Department and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office for his untimely death.

“He was too young to die,” said April Vercellini, who is married to Lorin Kane Jr.

According to Vercellini and her husband, they went to visit Kane in the jail on Sunday. After a 20-minute wait, two female staffers escorted them to a room where they were told their father had died four days earlier on Aug. 1.

Vercellini and Kane said two sheriff’s captains told them that the elder Kane either overdosed on drugs or died of a heart condition. Vercellini and her husband said that’s not possible because the elder Kane didn’t take illegal drugs and his internal organs were in good conditions.

“I took him regularly to his doctor visits,” Vercellini said. “His doctors never said he had a heart condition.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti confirmed Kane died on Aug. 1. He said Kane was facing several misdemeanor charges, including battery, drunk in public and resisting arrest.

According to Botti, Fresno police brought Kane to the jail around 5:45 p.m. Aug. 1. Typically, people cited on misdemeanor charges are held in a pre-booking cell, then booked and released.

Botti said correctional officers found Kane unresponsive on the floor of the cell around 7:15 p.m. Officers immediately gave Kane medical attention. Kane was then taken to Community Regional Medical Center where he died.

Botti said five other people were in the cell with Kane. “Detectives spoke with them and at this time there is no evidence to show they played a role in his death,” Botti said.

Sheriff’s homicide detectives, as well as investigators with the District Attorney’s Office, are conducting an “in-custody death” review, Botti said. Coroners have done an examination “but have not yet ruled a cause of death,” Botti said.

The cause is pending the results of toxicology tests, he said.

Kane was last seen by his family at a bus stop on Shaw Avenue and Sixth Street around 11:30 a.m. Aug. 1, his son said. He was going to visit his girlfriend, he said.

Vercellini and Kane said that when their father did not come home, they called family, friends and hospitals. Eventually, they thought to look on the jail website and found Kane listed.

Vercellini said the misdemeanor charges can’t be true because the elder Kane was disabled and used a walker. He has had several surgeries on his back, neck and knees, but is mentally sound, Vercellini said. “He couldn’t hurt anyone,” she said.

Fresno police did not respond to a request for comment.

Lorin Kane Jr. holds up a sign that says: “Trying to Send our Dad home.” Kane, his wife, April Vercellini, pictured here holding a donation jar, and other relatives protested outside the Fresno County Jail on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, after learning that Lorin Kane Sr. died unexpectedly on Aug. 1, 2018, while in custody. PABLO LOPEZ

With his death, the family is on a mission to raise money to fulfill his final wish.

The younger Kane said his father is an American Indian who devoted his life to his family, especially his grandchildren. As family and friends protested, the younger Kane held a sign that said: “Trying to send our Dad home.”

According to Vercellini, the elder Kane wanted to be buried in his ancestral home on the Paiute reservation at Fort Bidwell in Modoc County. To help pay the cost, the family has created a account.

“Our goal is to take him home so he can receive the full tribal rituals,” Vercellini said.