Lawyer visiting client forgotten for hours inside jail

Dylan Stableford

A California lawyer said guards in a San Diego jail forget about him—and that he was trapped for hours inside a locked waiting room.

Erubey Lopez, the attorney, told NBC's San Diego affiliate that he was visiting a client at the downtown jail last week, arriving at 8:20 p.m. local time.

“I know it takes a while to get the people, so I’m patient,” Lopez said. “I don’t have my cellphone with me because the policy is you can’t use a cellphone inside.”

After a half an hour, however, Lopez became concerned and tried to alert guards using an intercom.

"At that time, I'm really mad, and I'm thinking, ‘How can they forget about me?’" Lopez said. "So, I start hitting the door really loud to get someone to let me out."

The lawyer spent more than four hours inside the locked waiting room before a guard heard him and unlocked the door.

“[What] if I was unhealthy … had a heart attack? What if I had diabetes and had a sugar issue?” Lopez said. “If they hadn’t heard me with the screaming and banging ... there was no other way they were going to hear me.”

“It was an unfortunate incident on our part,” Sheriff’s Cmdr. John Ingrassia told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

It's not the first time law enforcement officials in San Diego have forgotten about someone.

Last spring, a 24-year-old University of California engineering student was locked in a holding cell for more than four days by local Drug Enforcement Administration agents and forgotten about.

Daniel Chong, the student, said he drank his own urine in desperation and attempted to kill himself during the ordeal. Chong was taken to the local DEA office after he was caught smoking marijuana during a drug raid on an off-campus apartment. He was not charged and said he was even told he would be driven home.

A DEA agent discovered Chong days later and called an ambulance that drove him to the hospital, where he spent three days in intensive care because of his near-failing kidneys.

The DEA apologized to Chong, who eventually filed a $20 million suit. Lopez told NBC he's not sure if he'll sue.