CHICAGO (CBS) — Friends and family continue demanding answers, more than two weeks after the death of Eugenio Escriba, a proud member of the LGBTQ community who died at Jewel grocery store in East Lakeview, shortly after being detained by security guards.
Escriba’s family flew in from Texas on Saturday to say goodbye at a ceremony held in his honor at the Center on Halsted, a prominent LGBTQ community center.
Family and friends held candles during a moment of silence for a man whose voice was silenced last month.
Escriba’s family said they still can’t believe the 55-year-old died on Nov. 20, shortly after security at the Jewel-Osco at 3531 N. Broadway detained him for suspected shoplifting.
“Someone so close, dying that way, it’s hard,” said his nephew, Abelardo.
Although they don’t have video of the incident, or an autopsy report yet, Escriba’s family and their attorney have said Jewel security guards forcibly detained him.
“At some point during this struggle, a third gentleman came in and either sat on top of him or pushed him and pinned him to the ground. Our understanding is that this gentleman was an employee of Jewel, and was a very large gentleman, and that Mr. Escriba died shortly after this occurred,” attorney Jay McCarron said.
When police arrived on the scene, Escriba was unresponsive. Officers attempted to administer CPR, but Escriba couldn’t be saved. His family said
Jewel has sent condolences to the family, and said it is cooperating with the Chicago Police Department’s death investigation.
“What could possibly have been in that grocery bag that was worth risking somebody’s life over?” McCarron said.
Escriba’s family said he was an immigrant from Cuba, who taught English as a second language, and had a very different vision of his final days.
“His dream was to someday die on a beach,” his nephew said.
Now the family is trying to focus not on how he died, but how he lived, like when he attended his nephew’s wedding.
“He was very lively at the wedding, very happy. He was happy for (Abelardo), happy for us,” said his niece, Claudia.
Abelardo Is now a medical resident, and he said he couldn’t have achieved his dream without his uncle.
“My dreams are his dreams, too,” Abelardo said.
When Abelardo’s father died at age 32, Escriba stepped up by sending money to Cuba for 15 years.
“I never went to sleep without eating something. I always had shoes on my feet,” Abelardo said. “He was always there for me, for the family.”
Escriba’s family said they are telling his story so he is remembered not as an accused shoplifter, but as a man who truly lived the words “family first.”
“I don’t think no one should go in such a way like that,” Abelardo said.
Escriba will be cremated on Sunday. His family said his ashes will be spread in his native country of Cuba at a later date.