A homeless Nashua, N.H., man who had won settlements against two police departments in New Hampshire over arrests concerning panhandling and vagrancy was found dead in his cell at a Manchester, N.H., jail Sunday, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.
Jeffrey Pendleton was arrested last week on a misdemeanor charge for possessing marijuana and was put in jail Wednesday. His bail was set at $100 cash, which he was unable to raise.
On Sunday at about 2:45 p.m., the 26-year-old was found unconscious in his cell. According to the Union Leader, corrections officers, jail medical staff, Manchester firefighters and ambulance workers all tried to revive Pendleton, but he was declared dead at 3:19 p.m., jail officials said in a statement released Monday.
“There appeared no indication that Mr. Pendleton was in any form of distress,” Hillsborough County Corrections Superintendent David Dionne said.
Manchester police and corrections officials are reportedly investigating the death, and an autopsy was scheduled for Monday.
Last year Pendleton won settlements from the Hudson and Nashua police departments with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. Pendleton accepted $7,640 from the Hudson Police Department after he was ticketed for panhandling on public property, at which time he was holding a sign that read, “Homeless and Struggling,” the news site notes.
Nashua settled with Pendleton for $10,315 after he spent 33 days in jail for walking in a park next to the Nashua Public Llibrary after officers told him not to do so. According to the Union, the day he died was exactly a year after Nashua signed papers agreeing to settle.
Both cases challenged police authority to force homeless people from public property.
“We will deeply miss Jeff,” Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, according to the Union Leader. “He knew there were people like him out there having similar interactions with law enforcement. … He wanted change, whether if for a black person or simply a poor person out of work.
“We trust that a thorough investigation will be conducted on the circumstances of his tragic and untimely death,” Bissonnette added.