Family of inmate who committed suicide files lawsuit

The family of a man who killed himself last year while in custody in San Francisco Thursday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging authorities failed to provide proper psychiatric care or supervision despite warnings that he was potentially suicidal.

The lawsuit filed by the family of Alberto Carlos Petrolino argues that after his arrest by the California Highway Patrol on July 25 for threatening to commit suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge, he was jailed in regular housing in the San Francisco County Jail.

Sheriff’s Department officials said after his death that Petrolino, 50, had been jailed on warrants for violating a stay-away order.

He remained in custody because he was unable to pay bail set at $100,000, according to family.

Petrolino was not evaluated by a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist, even after a public defender asked a judge to order psychiatric attention for him, and was not placed on suicide watch, the lawsuit alleges.

Family members said they also tried to warn jail officials. His sister, Angela Petrolino, said:

“I called the jail and told them my brother was suicidal. … My mom even went to the jail and spoke with a deputy on the night Alberto was arrested.”

Petrolino was found dead on July 28 in a shower stall, where he had hung himself using a torn strip of sheet, according to the lawsuit.

Attorney Ernest Galvan said in a statement:

“This action seeks accountability for the CHP officer’s and San Francisco jail officials’ failure to take Mr. Petrolino to a hospital after his arrest.”

Petrolino was a chef and restauranteur who owned the Hayes Valley restaurant Terra Brazilis in the late 1990s. More recently, he had struggled with alcoholism, according to his family.

Petrolino’s son Alberto Petrolino said in a statement Thursday:

“My dad didn’t have to die. … We are suing to prevent this from happening to anyone else.”

Petrolino was the eighth person to commit suicide in San Francisco County Jails since 2009, according to the lawsuit.