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Special Prosecutor May Probe Death Of Lake County Jail Inmate

A man holds on to a prison bar inside of a jail cell. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

A man holds on to a prison bar inside of a jail cell. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — The Lake County State’s Attorney’s office wants a special prosecutor to look into the death of jail inmate.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office announced Tuesday that the death of Eugene Gruber, 51, of Grayslake in early March was a homicide.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports

Gruber was paralyzed after an altercation with a Lake County correctional officer, who used a neck-twisting move to restrain him.

Gruber was arrested back on Oct. 31 for disorderly conduct, and taken to the Lake County Jail in Waukegan. He reportedly was not cooperative when correctional officers processed him, and he was physically restrained and pepper-sprayed.

He survived until March 3, when he was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital. His initial autopsy was inconclusive and pending further studies.

The Medical Examiner’s office has now ruled that Gruber died in part from spinal injuries from an altercation, and his death was ruled a homicide. Other causes of death include paraplegia, bronchial pneumonia and dilated cardiomyopathy, the medical examiner’s office announced Tuesday.

The Medical Examiner’s office uses the term “homicide” in a broad sense to mean that one person caused the death of another. The term does not necessarily mean the death is criminal.

Still, the State’s Attorney’s office wants a look at the case.

On March 22, Gruber’s sister, Eileen Siwula, filed a federal wrongful death and excessive force lawsuit, claiming sheriff’s officers beat and pepper sprayed Gruber, then denied requests for medical assistance despite the presence of contracted medical personnel at the jail.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.